The US military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have concluded the 37th iteration of the annual bilateral exercise, Balikatan 2022.

Around 9,000 members of the Philippine Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, special operations forces and the US military took part in the exercise.

Additionally, nearly 40 Australian Defence Force personnel took part in this year’s training.

Balikatan, which means shoulder-to-shoulder, aims to strengthen the shared commitment of the two nations toward the Mutual Defence Treaty.

Led by the Philippines, the two-week exercise saw the participants conduct training from the northern coast of Luzon to Palawan between 28 March and 8 April.

The exercise witnessed a series of maritime and field training events, including amphibious operations, live-fire training, air defence operations, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

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Under the International Observers Programme, the AFP also invited observers to promote defence cooperation with key allies and partners.

More than 50 aircraft, four ships, ten amphibious vessels and four HIMARS rocket launchers were deployed for the training.

Four US Patriot missile systems were also employed during the exercise to carry out amphibious missions for the first time.

In addition, the US Navy’s Lewis B Puller-class expeditionary sea-base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5) and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) also participated in the exercise to support various landings and amphibious operations.

Both US vessels conducted coastal defence operations; maritime security drills; rotary-wing aircraft operations; and visit, board, search, and seizure exercises.

Participating forces also conducted several civic assistance and humanitarian aid events, and exchanged lifesaving medical skills.

AFP exercise director major general Charlton Sean Gaerlan said: “The experience gained from exercise Balikatan complemented our security cooperation endeavours and helped enhance existing mutual security efforts.

“Although there were limitations brought about by the pandemic, it is highly commendable that the exercise pushed through and generated a favourable outcome.”

Around 9,000 personnel participated in the exercise Balikatan 2022 off the coast of the Philippines.