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PHL, US forces ‘sink’ China-made ship off Ilocos Norte

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

MANILA – As the Balikatan 2024 war drills of some 18,000 Philippine and American troops with 14 observer nations nears its close, the Philippine Navy (PN) said its missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) fired its LIG Nex 1 C-Star “sea-skimming surface-to-surface anti-ship cruise missile” system at the decommissioned naval tanker BRP Lake Caliraya in simulation of sinking of an “enemy” ship, a China made ship, off Laoag City in Ilocos Norte near Taiwan.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces declared as successful the conduct of the Balikatan maritime strike exercise off Laoag City when they sunk a mock enemy ship. 

The “made in China” ship BRP Lake Caliraya sank at 10:49 a.m., over two hours after the exercise started, the AFP and USAF said.

“The mission is to try to prevent an aggressor from landing in Philippine soil,” Lt. Col. Omar Abdullah Al Assaf, Balikatan 2024 maritime strike lead planner, told reporters in Laoag City. 

 As this developed, General Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP chief of staff, said it “will not dignify” the claim of the Chinese embassy in Manila that its organization has agreed to a “new model” for managing the situation in the Ayungin Shoal.

In a statement, General Brawner Jr. said China’s claim of an audio recording between Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos and a Chinese diplomat “does not merit significant concern.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense and the National Security Council have all denied the existence of the supposed agreement.

Commander John Percie Alcos, PN spokesman said that

before the launch of the C-Star surface-to-surface missile, fast attack interdiction craft BRP Lawrence Narag (PG-907) fired its NLOS (non-light of sight) missile system at the decommissioned tanker, Alcos said, add

“both missiles successfully hit the target.”

“I cannot disclose the specific salvo size to sink or neutralize the specific target. For that target, it requires more than one but this morning, we tested the accuracy of both missiles,” he added.

He said the BRP Jose Rizal fired its C-Star missile system at a distance of 20 nautical miles from the target vessel.

After the PN vessels, Philippine Air Force planes also tested their missiles and other munitions on the former BRP Lake Caliraya.

The Philippine Air Force’s FA-50 lead-in trainer fighter aircraft then dropped air-to-ground missiles on BRP Lake Caliraya, causing it to tilt on its stern. 

The United States’ F-16 aircraft, for its part, released its guided bomb unit, directly hitting the target.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) deployed two capital ships and their crew in the final leg of the Philippines-United States Balikatan exercise.

PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702) and BRP Malapascua (MRRV-4403) were deployed along with 150 personnel from the Coast Guard Special Operations Force, Coast Guard Medical Service, and Coast Guard Fleet.

“I would not specifically tell you what the Air Force fired but I would impart that on the Navy side, we were able to successfully fire our missiles,” Alcos said.

The C-Star’s warhead is known to weigh around 250 kilograms and was delivered to the PN along with its launchers some two or three years ago.

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