US, Philippine forces stage amphibious drill during Balikatan 2019

AAVs approach the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) off the coast of the Philippines during Exercise Balikatan 2019. Photo: US Navy

Philippine and US Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force service members on April 11 carried out an amphibious drill as part of the bilateral annual exercise Balikatan 2019.

The amphibious assault took place at Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), Zambales, and involved the movement of assault amphibious vehicles (AAVs) from L-class ships to shore, demonstrated the bilateral force’s ability to seize a littoral objective as part of a complex, combined arms operation between Philippine and US ground, naval and aviation assets.

During the drill, a team of US infantry Marines launched AAVs from the USS Wasp to seize a beach at NETC, in order to enable a follow-on team of Philippine Marines to land. The Philippine Marines aboard US AAVs then launched from the landing platform dock ship BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and conducted the main effort attack on the objective. Philippine and U.S. fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft provided tactical and logistical support throughout the amphibious and ground maneuvers.

“The Amphibious Exercise remains a relevant training opportunity for both the Philippine and US military forces, as it further enhances our capabilities during operations from sea to land,” said Philippine Marine Corps LtCol. Rommel B. Bogñalbal, Commander, 8 Marine Battalion.

This year’s evolution was particularly important for the Philippine and US militaries because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will begin using their own AAVs later this year, as part of the AFP Modernization Project.

The exercise allowed the Philippine and US crewman to share best AAV practices, techniques and procedures with one another, in order to assist in the development of the AFP’s new AAV doctrine.

“We are very excited to be adding our own AAVs to our inventory of military assets later this year,” Bogñalbal said. “They are a great advancement for our military, since they increase our amphibious capability. It has been very beneficial working with the US on their AAVs the past few years, which has been the basis for us to build off of, and we look forward to furthering those capabilities together even more.”

The amphibious assault was the culminating event of a broader series of joint US-Philippine interoperability training exercises during Balikatan 2019, which also included a combined arms live-fire exercise, military operations in urban terrain, and aviation operations.

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