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US, PHL troops poised for missile, ship sinking drills in Balikatan exercises

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – Filipino and American troops will stage “integrated air defense exercises” and another “sinking exercise” during the expanded  Balikatan exercises scheduled to start next month.
The “sinking exercise,” also known as the maritime strike exercise, would  involve the  sinking of a vessel as target,  Balikatan 2024 executive agent Col. Michael Logico said.
Observers from the International Observers Program are expected to participate in the war drills scheduled from April 22 to May 8, Logico added.
Last year, the maritime war drill was executed  from within the shores of the Naval Education Training Command (in San Antonio, Zambales), which is actually part of the training area,” he added.

Logico said they are looking at the possibility of Batanes as a possible site for the “Balikatan” exercise.

He added that they are “venturing away from our traditional training areas,” such as Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija and the Col. Ernesto Rabina Air Base in Tarlac.

This year’s Balikatan exercises between Filipino and American troops would include an “integrated air missile defense exercise” as one of its highlights.

Logico said the exercises would be held in Central Luzon, where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will use its SPYDER air defense missile acquired from Israel.

“Yes, we will be utilizing our own newly-acquired weapon systems from (the) AFP Modernization (Program) and we are going to test the interoperability between our weapon systems and that of the United States,” Logico said.

Asked whether the exercise will involve live firing, he said “it will be both live, virtual, and constructed.”

Logico said they would also be “testing the command-and-control dimension” during the drills.

SPYDER, also known as the “ground-based air defense system,” is the primary weapon of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) 960th Air and Missile Defense Group.

It is a mobile air and missile defense system designed to protect critical installations, land-based fixed assets, mobile platforms, and friendly forces from aerial threats, such as combat aircraft, attack helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, incoming missiles, guided munition, and rockets.

In certain cases, it may also be used to neutralize surveillance threats. It is classified as a “medium-range air defense missile system” and is capable of low-level, quick-reaction interception.

Aside from Singapore, the Philippines is one of two countries in Southeast Asia that operates this advanced missile system.

The SPYDER is an acquisition project under Horizon 2 of the AFP Modernization Program.