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This story has been corrected.
A U.S. Navy hovercraft delivers a U.S. Army Patriot air-defense system to a beach in Appari, Philippines, during the annual Balikatan exercise, March 28, 2022.

A U.S. Navy hovercraft delivers a U.S. Army Patriot air-defense system to a beach in Appari, Philippines, during the annual Balikatan exercise, March 28, 2022. (Kallahan Morris/U.S. Marine Corps)

A U.S. Navy hovercraft delivered an Army surface-to-air missile defense system to a Philippine beach for the first time during recent amphibious drills involving U.S. and Philippine troops.

The March 29 drill marked “the first-ever amphibious insertion of a Patriot missile system in the Philippines,” 3rd Marine Division spokesman Maj. Kurt Stahl told Stars and Stripes in an email Monday.

The operation was part of Balikatan 22, an exercise involving 5,100 U.S. and 3,800 Philippine troops that began March 28 and wraps up Friday.

Four launchers and 130 soldiers from the Army’s Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment deployed from Okinawa for the drills, Stahl said.

The air-defense equipment and troops landed at Aparri on hovercraft deployed by the USS Ashland amphibious assault ship.

“Following the landing, the Patriot missile system moved inland as part of a multiday rehearsal of a territorial coastal defense in northern Luzon,” he said.

The Patriot battery supported Marines and Philippine troops practicing coastal defense, Stahl said in a phone interview earlier Monday.

Marines, equipped with portable Stinger air-defense missiles, focused on low-altitude air defense while the Patriot troops practiced defending against high-altitude threats, he said.

“The Patriots have a capability we don’t have in the Marine Corps,” Stahl said.

Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missiles, for example, can travel up to 60 miles and reach as high as 20 miles, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

On Guam in September and November, a theoretical Patriot battery was incorporated into air-defense tests involving a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery and an Iron Dome air-defense system brought from Texas by the 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

A Patriot battery deployed to Japan’s southern island of Amami during last summer’s annual Orient Shield exercise. Also last summer, 65 soldiers from the 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade deployed to Australia with a pair of Patriot launchers, a radar, power plant, control station and brigade and battalion command posts during the biennial Talisman Sabre drills.

Correction

A previous version of this story contained incorrect information about the hovercraft involved in these drills. It belongs to the U.S. Navy, not the Marine Corps.
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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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