Manila:More than 17,000 Philippine and U.S. troops on Tuesday kicked off the most extensive joint military activities in decades in the Philippines.
According to the Philippine military, the 18-day yearly exercise dubbed Balikatan involves 5,400 Philippine and 12,200 U.S. troops, making it the largest iteration of the Philippines-U.S. joint drills conducted in decades. About 100 members of the Australian armed forces join in the exercises, while a dozen countries, including Japan and Britain, are participating as observers.
Balikatan 2023 will be held in several areas including northern Luzon island, Palawan province, Batanes islands, and Zambales province from April 11 to 28.
The drills will focus on maritime security, amphibious operations, live-fire training, cyber defense, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief preparedness. The Philippines and the United States will deploy complex weapons systems, including a Patriot missile battery and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).