By Priam Nepomuceno
MANILA – Around 17,600 Filipino and American troops would participate in this year’s “Balikatan” Exercise which is scheduled from April 11 to 28.
Col. Michael Logico, “Balikatan 2023” spokesperson, said the number includes 12,000 American troops while the remainder are Filipino troops.
In an interview with reporters, Logico said around 111 members of the Australian Defense Force will be participating in events Like “special operations and smaller land-based exercises.”
Logico, also the director of the Joint and Combined Training Center, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Education, Training and Doctrine Command, said these forces will be operating in “areas of Northern Luzon, Palawan, and Antique.”
He added that Japan will be deploying observers to this year’s joint military exercise.
Logico said this year’s drills are the “officially the largest Balikatan exercise” ever.
Prior to this, the largest number of participants was recorded in 2015 where around 5,000 Filipino troops took part along with 6,500 US soldiers.
In 2022, around 3,800 AFP members and 5,100 American troops took part in that iteration of “Balikatan.”
In 2021, only 415 Filipino and 226 American military personnel participated in the annual exercise while in 2020, “Balikatan” was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When asked about this year’s objectives, Logico said the exercise had always been about interoperability.
“It’s always been an interoperability exercise to test our concepts for maritime defense, for coastal defense and maritime domain awareness,” he added.
Logico also emphasized that the exercise is not aimed at any country but would show that “we are combat ready.”
For this year, the Americans will be bringing their Patriot surface-to-air missiles and the HIMARS rocket system, while the AFP will be using its FA-50PH jet fighters and newly-acquired artillery systems and missile frigates. (PNA)