Amphibious assault ship wields firepower during shoulder-to-shoulder drills in the Philippines
Stars and Stripes April 17, 2023
The USS Makin Island amphibious assault ship conducted live-fire weapons training and practiced replenishment-at-sea with two Philippine navy vessels on Saturday.
The flattop, along with the Philippine navy’s missile frigate BRP Jose Rizal and landing dock BRP Tarlac, on Wednesday departed Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base on the main island of Luzon, the government-run Philippine News Agency reported Friday.
The vessels traveled to the “joint operational area of the Puerto Princesa, Palawan-based Western Command,” the agency reported.
Saturday’s live-fire training utilized the Makin Island’s close-in weapons system, the U.S. Navy said in a statement Monday. The ship is equipped with the Phalanx, a rapid-fire 20-millimeter gun, as a last defense against anti-ship missiles.
The weapons drill was part of the largest-ever annual Balikatan exercise, involving 17,600 troops from both nations, which kicked off April 11 and concludes April 28. Balikatan is Tagalog for “shoulder-to-shoulder.”
The replenishment-at-sea rehearsed skills to transfer fuel, munitions and stores from one ship to another while under way.
Before leaving port, sailors from the two navies met to talk about the way they conduct such maneuvers, according to the Navy statement.
“Subject matter expert exchanges like these enhance our maritime interoperability with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Capt. Tony Chavez, commanding officer of the Makin Island, said in the statement. “We need to do the reps and sets in a controlled environment so we are able to respond quickly in a contested environment.”
The training follows an April 11 meeting in Washington, D.C., between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their Philippine counterparts, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez.
A fact sheet released by the Department of Defense after the meeting said the allies were finalizing plans for the resumption of combined maritime activities, “including the conduct of joint sails by the U.S. and Philippine Navies, in the South China Sea.”
Both sides also discussed plans to conduct multilateral maritime activities with other like-minded partners in the South China Sea later this year, according to the fact sheet.