08 April 2016
US HIMARS MLRS (photo : Armyreco)
THE High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) that Filipino and American troops will use for interoperability training in the ongoing bilateral war games would likely be left by the United States in the country in order to boost the deterrent capability of the Armed Forces against China in the West Philippine Sea.
The deployment of the Himars, which will be used for the first time in the 31 years of the RP-US Exercise Balikatan, would form part of the repositioning of troops and assets of the US in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), other than aiding the military against China’s aggressive military activities in the disputed territory.
On Tuesday US Marines participating in the war games fired six rockets from two Himars platforms at the Crow Valley Gunnery Range in Tarlac, with the Filipino troops observing the live fire exercise.
On Monday Balikatan officials disclosed that US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will fly to the Philippines to observe the firing of the Himars in the latter part of the war games, the first time that a US defense secretary will be present in the yearly exercise between Filipino soldiers and their American counterparts.
Officials have issued statements that after the Balikatan, the Himars would be taken to Palawan without elaborating.
The transport of the US weapons system to Palawan, one of the areas that has been identified by the US and the Philippines to host US troops and equipment on a rotation basis under the Edca, has raised the possibility that it would be left there.
Normally, the US and even the Armed Forces would not disclose the deployment of weapons.
One official who requested anonymity said the basing of the Himars in Palawan, if it happens, should check the Chinese military lurking on the reefs that it has reclaimed and turned into bases in the West Philippine Sea.
Meanwhile, one of the two C-130 “Hercules” planes that the US is turning over to the country under its Excess Defense Articles Program landed in Cebu on Tuesday night.
The transport plane landed at Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu, at around 11: 25 p.m., said the Air Force spokesman, Col. Araus Roberto Musico.
The C-130 was flown in by five Filipino Air Force officers.