Philippine, U.S. hold largest ever bilateral military exercise

From April 11 to 28, more than 17,600 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military will participate in Balikatan 2023, an annual bilateral exercise between the two allies and the largest iteration of Balikatan to date.

This year marks the 38th iteration of the exercise, incorporating training activities throughout the Philippines.

Approximately 5,400 AFP personnel and 12,200 U.S. military personnel will train shoulder-to-shoulder, developing interoperability and improved capability in the areas of maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban and aviation operations, cyber defense, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness. The increase in participating personnel from Balikatan 2022’s 9,000 participants shows that the scope of the exercise grows consistently year after year.

This year’s iteration includes a bilateral command post exercise that will strengthen the Allies’ ability to plan, coordinate, and provide command and control of forces together against a range of scenarios and simulated challenges. This training event will also enable the AFP and the U.S. military to refine tactics, techniques, and procedures related to maritime security, and deconflict fires and maneuver in a shared and contested battlespace.

Field training exercise events will take place across the Philippines to test the Allies’ capabilities in combined arms live-fire, information and intelligence sharing, communications between maneuver units, logistics operations, amphibious operations, and many other skill sets.

The AFP and U.S. military will also conduct multiple Humanitarian Civic Assistance (HCA) projects to improve infrastructure, enhance medical response, and strengthen ties between local communities and Philippine and American military forces. These activities include the construction or renovation of three community health centers and multipurpose halls and hands-on training in advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques.

“The Balikatan Exercise enhances both the AFP and the United States Armed Forces’ tactics, techniques, and procedures across a wide range of military operations,” said AFP Spokesperson Colonel Medel Aguilar. “It increases our ability to work together effectively and efficiently in response to various crisis situations.”

“Balikatan provides unparalleled opportunities to demonstrate the strength and readiness of the Philippine-U.S. security alliance,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Huvane, Balikatan Combined Joint Information Director. “Engagements such as Balikatan are important investments in our ability to work together across the spectrum of military operations, respond to crises, support the people of the Philippines, and accomplish our shared missions.”

Balikatan is a Tagalog term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.

The Philippines is a key U.S. ally. It is the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance, equipment, and training in the region. Together, the United States and the Philippines are committed to promoting regional peace and stability.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tom Tonthat. SUBIC BAY, PHILIPPINES – Amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23) pulls into Subic Bay, Philippines to participate in Exercise Balikatan 2023 (BK23) April 10, 2023.

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