The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military will conduct the 39th iteration of Balikatan, the largest annual bilateral training exercise between the two Allies, from 22 April to 10 May. The exercise directly supports the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty by enhancing military cooperation and readiness between the two militaries. 

More than 16,000 members of the AFP and U.S. military will train together this year.  Contingents from the Australian Defence Force and, for the first time in Balikatan’s history, the French Navy will also join the exercise as participants.  Meanwhile, 14 nations will participate as part of the AFP-hosted international observer program: Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

During Balikatan 2024, participants will execute a range of complex missions across domains, including maritime security, sensing and targeting, air and missile defense, dynamic missile strikes, cyber defense, and information operations.  The Philippine Navy, U.S. Navy, and the French Navy will also conduct a Multilateral Maritime Exercise in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“Each year, we work closely with AFP senior leaders to make Balikatan more challenging. This year, we’ve increased the scope, scale, and complexity across all domains,” said Lt. Gen. William M. Jurney, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and the U.S. military officer responsible for designing, planning and conducting the exercise. 

Balikatan 2024 is organized into three main exercises.  The field training exercise features four combined joint all-domain operations.  This includes exercises in protecting key terrain in Luzon and Palawan in support of territorial defense; rapidly moving long range, precision strike capabilities and using them in targeting simulated threats; tracking simulated air threats and targeting them with multiple air and missile defense systems; and integrating multilateral air and land platforms to increase awareness of the maritime security situation. Exercise forces will conclude by targeting simulated enemy forces and sinking an “enemy” ship.

The command-and-control exercise includes a cyber defense exercise to strengthen bilateral defense capabilities that protect critical military and civilian information infrastructure; a staff planning exercise to increase bilateral planning proficiency by developing the plan for next year’s iteration of Balikatan; and the inaugural information warfare exercise where Philippine and U.S. forces engaged in a week-long wargame on April 1 to synchronize capabilities and advance both nations’ information operations skills.

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