MANILA – A combined force of Filipino and American troops sank a decommissioned corvette of the Philippine Navy during a littoral live-fire drill in the waters off Zambales in Central Luzon on Wednesday, officials from both countries said in a statement.
The sinking in the coastal waters of the South China Sea of former corvette BRP Pangasinan was the first in the history of the U.S.-Philippines bilateral exercise and was one of the last events of the annual Balikatan series.
Training officials said about 1,400 Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Coast Guardsmen from both countries took part in the “sinking exercise,” which involved “detecting, identifying, targeting and engaging” the corvette using a variety of ground and air-based weapons systems.
“This training increased the exercise’s realism and complexity, a key priority shared between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military,” said Lt. Gen. William Jurney, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and the U.S. director for the exercise.
“Together we are strengthening our capabilities in full-spectrum military operations across all domains,” he added.
Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and Department of National Defense Officer-in-Charge Carlito Galvez witnessed the combined SINKEX.
During the exercise, which took place two days before the scheduled end of Balikatan on Friday, U.S. and Filipino troops delivered coordinated fires on the target ship, using various weapons platforms.
The weapons systems included the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, Avenger air defense systems, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Philippine Air Force FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter-attack aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcons, U.S. Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and a U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130H Spectre gunship.
A U.S. Marine Corps command and control and sensor network gave the firing platforms targeting information to provide solutions to hit the World War II era patrol boat.
Balikatan officials played up the integrated operations between U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces.
“This significant activity demonstrated new potential and revitalized the strength of our militaries while we continuously forge an ironclad alliance,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, commander of the AFP’s Education, Training and Doctrine Command and the Balikatan 2023 exercise director for the AFP.
A day before the SINKEX, combined forces shot down simulated cruise missiles and drones with Patriot and Avenger air defense systems during a live-fire exercise, also in San Antonio, Zambales.
Training officials said a focus point for this year’s Balikatan was a bilateral integration of command and control, sensors and multi-domain fires that enables expanded battlefield awareness, sharing of targeting data between geographically dispersed units and precision strikes in a contested maritime environment.