U.S., Philippines conclude one of biggest maritime military exercises

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military on April 8 celebrated the successful completion of Balikatan 2022, the 37th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise.

Over the last two weeks, nearly 9,000 exercise participants from the AFP and U.S. military trained shoulder-to-shoulder from the northern coast of Luzon to Palawan, focusing on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

“After two years of a global pandemic, U.S. and Philippine forces have come together to complete one of the largest Balikatan exercises ever held,” said U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires ad interim Heather Variava. “This is a testament to the strength of the U.S.-Philippine alliance and the shared priorities of our countries.”

U.S. and Philippine exercise forces employed more than 50 aircraft, four ships, 10 amphibious craft, four High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, and four Patriot missile systems during Balikatan 22. This year’s exercise also included approximately 40 personnel from the Australian Defense Force.

“The experience gained from exercise Balikatan complemented our security cooperation endeavors and helped enhance existing mutual security efforts,” said Maj. Gen. Charlton Sean Gaerlan, AFP Exercise Director for Balikatan 22. “Although there were limitations brought about by the pandemic, it is highly commendable that the exercise pushed through and generated and favorable outcome.”

During Balikatan 22, U.S. Army Patriot missile systems were employed in amphibious operations in the Philippines for the first time. The exercise also saw the inaugural deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps’ 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment (3d MLR), which was established in Hawaii on March 3.

AFP and U.S. forces experimented with sensors and fire support, and used expeditionary advanced bases (EABs) as the framework for an integrated coastal defense. Over the course of eight days, the 3d MLR partnered with the Philippine Marine Corps Coastal Defense Regiment and provided command and control over multiple EABs across northern Luzon. 

This coastal defense was further enhanced by two Patriot Missile Batteries from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment and HIMARS from 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines.

The U.S. Navy and Philippine Navy played key roles providing sealift and off-shore support.

“The completion of yet another successful Balikatan is a clear example of our shared commitment to advancing peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Clearfield, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific Deputy Commander. 

“As a result of our mutual efforts, our militaries have grown together in friendship, and we are better prepared to respond as one cohesive team to any crisis or challenge.”

The AFP and U.S. military also conducted multiple humanitarian and civic assistance projects, including the renovation of four elementary schools, multiple community health engagements, and the exchange of advanced emergency rescue and lifesaving techniques. 

These construction projects, health engagements, and community relations events improved local infrastructure, facilitated the exchange of lifesaving medical skills, and strengthened ties between local communities and Philippine and American military forces.

Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua Brittenham. Northern Luzon, Philippines – Philippine Marines with Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 and U.S Marines with 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, 3d Marine Division, conduct a bilateral beach defense exercise during Balikatan 22, at Aparri Beach, Cagayan, Philippines, March 31, 2022. 

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