'Balikatan' 2024 to shift focus to maritime drills – Brawner

By Priam Nepomuceno

October 11, 2023, 10:35 am

<p>AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. <em>(PNA photo by Priam F. Nepomuceno)</em></p>

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (PNA photo by Priam F. Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The 2024 iteration of the annual "Balikatan" exercises between Filipino and American forces will be more focused on maritime or naval drills, compared to past editions which are more land-based or infantry intensive, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said.

And due to its more naval orientation, participants for next year's "Balikatan" are placed at 16,000 personnel or much lower than the 17,767 participants in its 2023 iteration, the AFP chief told select reporters in a recent interview.

"Dahil nag-shift tayo ng focus sa maritime, hindi na ‘yun manpower intensive. Dati kung Army, land-based, ang daming tropa yan. Ngayon, pag shift ka ng maritime, yung barko hindi mo naman pwedeng dagdagagan ng tao, kung ano lang yung talagang crew nya, kailangan yun lang (Because we have shifted our focus on maritime exercise, that is not manpower intensive. Unlike if it is land-based or Army, there’s a lot of troops involved. Now, if you shift to maritime, you cannot add additional personnel to the ships, which have a fixed number of crewmen)," Brawner said.

He said some of the possible maritime drills for next year's "Balikatan" include naval gunnery, anti-submarine drills, resupply at sea, and helicopter landing drills or flight deck exercises.

The 2023 iteration of "Balikatan" was held on April 11 - 28, and is considered the biggest in the 38-year history of the joint exercises.

AFP assets used include the newly-acquired ATMOS 155mm self-propelled howitzers, 105mm howitzers, S-70i "Black Hawk" helicopters, Embraer A-29 "Super Tucano" attack planes, FA-50 jet fighters, T-129 "Atak" helicopters, SF-260 light bombers, AW-109, and MD-520MG light attack helicopters, missile frigates, and landing docks.

Among the highlights are the sinking of the decommissioned World War II BRP Pangasinan (PS-31) which was sunk by combined Filipino and American forces off Zambales last April 26. (PNA)