Philippines, US launch annual Balikatan war games

Philippines, US launch annual Balikatan war games

By: - Reporter / @FArgosinoINQ
/ 12:19 PM April 22, 2024

Balikatan 2024

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner (R) puts a patch on Philippines exercise director for Balikatan Major General Marvin Licudine (L) during the opening ceremony of the ‘Balikatan’ joint military exercise at the military headquarters in Quezon City, suburban Manila on April 22, 2024. AFP

MANILA, Philippines — This year’s “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercise, or the annual war games between the United States (US) military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), officially began on Monday.

Balikatan’s 39th iteration, which was officially opened by AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. at Camp Aguinaldo, will run until May 10 in Northern Luzon and Palawan with approximately 16,000 military personnel, including contingents from the Australian Defense Force and French Navy.


“As the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I officially declare the Philippines-United States exercise, Balikatan 39-2024, open effective today,” Brawner said during the ceremony.


READ: Around 16,000 US, PH personnel joining Balikatan 2024 — AFP

Of the 16,000 participants, around 5,000 are AFP personnel, mainly from the Northern Luzon Command and Western Command, while the 11,000 are US military personnel consisting of 3,700 marines, 1,200 soldiers, 4,000 Navy personnel, 400 airmen and Air National Guardsmen, and 750 special operations forces, among others.

In addition, 14 countries, namely Britain, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, would observe the exercises.

According to AFP, the Balikatan 2024 “will test participants in increasingly complex operations across all domains – air, land, sea, space, cyber.”

READ: ‘Most expansive balikatan yet’ kicks off today

This year’s exercises have three main components: Command and Control Exercise (C2X), Field Training Exercise (FTX), and Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA).


AFP revealed that the C2X covers cyber defense, staff planning, and an inaugural information warfare exercises aimed at enhancing both nation’s ability “to protect critical military and civilian cyber infrastructure, focus on developing plans for future iterations of joint military exercises like Balikatan, and to align their information warfare tactics and strategies.”

On the other hand, the FTX features four Combined Joint All-Domain Operations to practice coordinating different military forces (land, air, sea) from the US and the Philippines and defend the latter from stimulated threats.

Meanwhile, the AFP and US Civil-Military Operations task force will facilitate HCA activities. The activities’ objectives include “infrastructure development, imparting life-saving medical expertise, and fostering stronger military-community relations within local Philippine communities.”

On Sunday, AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said this year’s Balikatan is “distinctive due to its scale and evolving nature, adapting to contemporary security challenges.”

“Every balikatan is increasingly complex than the last. It has evolved from the tactical to the operational level of war. We aim to enhance interoperability, strengthen alliances, and deepen regional security cooperation,” she told reporters in a Viber message.

“Balikatan is a demonstration of combat readiness and interoperability with our treaty allies. Our focus remains on bolstering external defense capabilities and fostering peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” she added.

Even with the increased Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, Padilla clarified that the exercise is “an annual event aimed at strengthening defense capabilities and alliances.”

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“While we remain vigilant in the face of regional challenges, the exercise is not explicitly tied to any particular country’s actions. Its primary objective is to enhance collective security and readiness among participating nations,” the AFP spokesperson said.

TAGS: Balikatan, military exercise, Philippines, USA

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