Monday, March 21, 2016

Under 9,000 US and Philippine soldiers to participate in the Balikatan Exercises 2016

Balikatan or shoulder-to-shoulder reiterates the annual military bilateral training exercises of Philippines and America to intensify the military training on humanitarian disaster response and interoperability.

For 2016, more than three thousand Filipino soldiers and less than five thousand American soldiers will participate in the 32nd iteration of the Balikatan military bilateral training exercises.

The training will start on April 4 and will end on April 15, 2016.

This is earlier compared than last year for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prepare for the National Elections in May 2016.

This year, more countries from the Southeast Asian region will participate as observers such as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, South Korea and Timor-Leste.

Participating Philippine and US service members will also conduct humanitarian civil assistance projects in Panay island.

According to Captain Celeste Frank Sayson; Public Information Officer for Exercise Directorate Headquarters, one highlight of the military exercises is the joint rapid reaction force.

"We'll be using various platforms, alternative platforms carrying troops from the mainland from GHQ Manila, the troops combined with Filipino soldiers and US sailors and other US marines, they will be moving from Manila towards Panay island, in the central part of Visayas."

AFP will also be utilizing two FA-50PH supersonic fighter jets and other warplanes.

Around 55 airplanes and five warships of US will arrive in the Philippines to participate in "Balikatan Exercise".

According to Capt. Sayson, US is also set to bring its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to participate in this year’s US-PH joint exercise dubbed as "BK16".

The highly mobile rocket system has the maximum range of 300 Kilometers.

Photo from: US-Wikimedia page
HIMARS will demonstrate it's capability to engage ground and air targets in Crow Valley gunnery range in Tarlac and later on be brought to Palawan for it's mobility test.

AFP once again reiterated that the bilateral military exercise is not intended to the ongoing West Philippine Sea territorial dispute because it is done yearly as part of the mutual defense treaty between Philippines and America. 

"These exercises have nothing to do with the emerging threat or what is emerging in the western part of the country, or the West Philippine Sea. This is the 32nd iteration. We've been doing these exercises every year so we would like to make it clear that this is just any other exercises" said Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, PIO-EDHQ

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