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Philippines, US kick off Exercise ‘Balikatan' with debut of coastguard, French Navy ships

Pilots from the French Navy surveillance frigate Vendémiaire (F734) practice landing aboard the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) during an interoperability exercise. Blue Ridge is the flagship for Commander, US 7th Fleet. (US Navy)

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military have begun the most complex iteration of Exercise ‘Balikatan', which is seeing the first-time participation of a French Navy warship and vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

A ceremony to mark the start of the exercise was held on 22 April at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines. Drills under the annual bilateral exercise will be held at various locations across the Philippines till 10 May.

“With over 16,000 service members participating across Luzon from today until 10 May, ‘Balikatan' 2024 is designed to address the ever-evolving security landscape in the region and is poised to be the most complex and comprehensive iteration to date,” reads a statement issued by the AFP on 22 April.

“During ‘Balikatan' 2024, participants will execute a range of complex missions across domains, including maritime security, sensing and targeting, air and missile defence, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defence, and information operations,” reads a separate statement issued by the US Embassy in the Philippines to announce the exercise.

“The Philippine Navy, US Navy, and the French Navy will also conduct a multilateral maritime exercise in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ),” the US Embassy statement added.

Participating in the exercise as observers are personnel from Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the UK, said the US Embassy.

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