Military forces from the US and Philippine have carried out a series of synchronised, integrated and joint all domain operations as part of the Balikatan 2024 exercise. 

The exercise involved participation of more than a dozen units from both the nations, to demonstrate the increased complexity of this year’s Balikatan operations. 

According to the US Indo-Pacific Command’s media release, the joint operations spanned over 16 days and more than 1,000 miles of Philippine territory. 

Balikatan 24 executive agent Philippine Army colonel Mike Logico said: “The main goal or the exercise’s objective is to demonstrate the strength of the alliance and our willingness to defend our territory.” 

During Exercise Balikatan 24, the bilateral forces also performed a combined high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) rapid infiltration mission (HIRAIN) and live fire operation. 

This training aimed to bolster bilateral interoperability of the military forces in several complex littoral and coastal defence operations, which is crucial for securing the Philippines’ territorial waters and exclusive economic zone interests.  

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Under this live fire event, the deployed HIMARS were loaded onto an MC-130J Commando II transport aircraft at Subic Bay before being inserted into San Vicente, Palawan.  

The HIMARS, along with Philippine Marine Corps artillery, were then loaded onto a landing craft, air cushioned, and transitioned to the USS Somerset (LPD-25) to continue their movement overnight along the Palawan coast.  

The following morning, after securing a beachhead, US and Philippine Marines established firing positions and fired training rockets as well as artillery rounds at notional targets. 

Apart from undertaking HIMARS operations in Palawan perform, the bilateral forces also worked to prepare for HIRAIN multi-modal transportation movements to Subic and subsequent movements to Northern Luzon.  

The all-domain training, which began on 24 April in Palawan, also included other operations such as reconnaissance drills, sonar hydrographic surveys, expeditionary mine hunting, amphibious landings, and air assault drills.  

US Army 1st Multi-Domain Task Force commander brigadier general Bernard Harrington said: “This HIRAIN training exercise demonstrates the effectiveness of our combined operations between US forces and the Armed Force of the Philippines, highlighting our ability to rapidly deploy critical weapons systems throughout the archipelago to collectively sense and engage military targets.”