MANILA / WASHINGTON, -- The United States (U.S.) will deploy its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to participate in this year’s US-PH Balikatan Exercise (BK16), which will bring together more than 8,000 Filipino and American forces.
It will be the first time that the HIMARS, which offers the firepower of a multiple-launch rocket system, will be used during the live fire phase of the annual bilateral training between U.S. and Philippine troops.
BK 16 is scheduled to kick off April 4 and will run through April 16.
A U.S. military official said the HIMARS live fire exercise will be held at Crow Valley in Tarlac where the Joint Rapid Response Force (JRRF), one of the main operations for this year’s Balikatan, will begin.
“Yes, HIMARS will be present there. I believe the live fire demonstration will coincide with the opening ceremony,” he said. But the HIMARS weapon will not stay at Crow Valley, as it will also be transported to Palawan during the exercise.
Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Balikatan spokesperson, confirmed this, saying, “In Crow Valley, HIMARS will demonstrate to Filipino troops its capability to engage ground, air, and sea targets. It has maximum range of 300 kilometers. Later on it it will be brought to Palawan.”
Sayson defined maritime interdiction as military efforts to deal with pirates and other vessels not clear or without permission to enter Philippine territorial waters.
The HIMARS is a light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame. It can roll off a C-130 plane to deliver long-range artillery support.
The HIMARS system carries six rockets on a five-ton truck, each one of them have the capability to level entire buildings.
Aside from the HIMAFS, 55 US tactical aircraft are also expected to participate in BK16, including the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo planes and and Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft.
American aircraft and accompanying personnel will start arriving byMarch 28 to April 1, Sayson said.
Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Philippine-U.S. alliance focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection.
The US Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame.