LOOK: Philippines, US navies train in South China Sea for Balikatan 2019
MANILA, Philippines — The navies of the Philippines and United States trained in the South China Sea as part of their two-week Balikatan exercises.
The US government’s Defense Visual Information Distribution System (DVIDS) released photos from the exercise conducted last April 5.
US amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1), along with Philippine Navy ships BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), and BRP Tarlac (LD-601) were photographed sailing together at the disputed sea.
The Philippine Navy’s AW-109 multi-purpose attack helicopter also landed aboard the USS Wasp as part of the exercise. Photographs also showed US Navy sailors working along with their Philippine counterparts for an air defense exercise.
This annual military exercise, the largest of the 281 security cooperation activities of the Philippines and US, is conducted to improve the interoperability of both countries and the ability to rapidly respond in case of crisis.
“Exercises like Balikatan strengthen international partnerships and the participating militaries’ abilities to rapidly respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” US Navy earlier said.
This is the first time for the F-35B stealth fighters of the US to take part in the Balikatan. The USS Wasp was seen sailing in the South China Sea with at least 10 F-35Bs on its way to the Philippines, foreign news reports said.
“Together they represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Participating in Balikatan demonstrates their ability to forward deploy in support of an ally should a crisis or natural disaster occurs,” US Navy said.
This year’s Balikatan focuses on maritime security, a growing concern as China continues to bid for its dominance in the South China Sea.
Filipino and US forces will also conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counter-terrorism response.
Around 7,500 combined Filipino and US troops are participating for the two-week exercise, which runs until April 12. A small contingent of Australian troops is also joining the drills.
New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan, United Kingdom, and Thailand have also sent a small batch of observers.
The exercises are held as the Philippines protest the swarming of Chinese maritime militia near the Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island.
Russian Navy ships in Manila
While the Balikatan exercises are underway, a Russian Navy contingent dropped anchor in Manila on Monday for a five-day goodwill visit.
The anti-submarine ships Admiral Tributs and Vinogradov and large sea tanker Irkut, which came from Vladivostok, were welcomed by the Philippine Navy at Pier 15.
“The arrival of our Russian Navy counterparts underscores the continuing efforts to further strengthen the relationship between our governments and navies. This will further enhance and sustain the promotion of peace, stability and maritime cooperation thru naval diplomacy,” said Captain Constancio Reyes of the Navy’s education and training.
Russian Navy’s anti-submarine ships Admiral Tributs and Vinogradov, sea tanker Irkut are in Manila for a 5-day goodwill visit. This is the second batch of Russian Navy ships to visit the country this year pic.twitter.com/kohfMRid8R
— Frances Mangosing (@FMangosingINQ) April 8, 2019
Lined up activities for the visitors include a shipboard tour, reciprocal receptions, sports events and joint training on live-firing demonstration and visit, board, search and seizure with Naval Special Operations Group personnel.
This is the second time that Russian Navy vessels visited Manila this year after the first batch in January. /kga
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