Kamandag exercises begin in the Philippines with a focus on land-based weapons
Filipino Marines watch their U.S. counterparts lead a marksmanship mission at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, during Exercise Kamandag in 2019 (Donald Holbert / US Marine Corps)
The use of weapons on land will feature prominently in an annual exercise involving U.S., Filipino and Japanese troops that began in the Philippines this week, according to U.S. officials.
Kamandag’s debut – short for “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma Ng Dagat” or “Sea Warriors Cooperation” – was announced by the United States Embassy in Manila in a Facebook post on Thursday.
The exercise, which began in 2017 as a replacement for the full-scale amphibious landing exercise PHIBLEX, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year’s scaled-down event “will focus on the use of weapons on land, counterterrorism strategies, internal security operations, and humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts.” , the embassy said in its message.
About 2,400 soldiers – 1,400 Americans, 900 Filipinos and 100 Japanese – participated in exercises last year.
Major General Ariel Caculitan, commander of the Philippine Marine Corps, said 242 Philippine Marines will participate in this month’s eight-day exercise along with 12 U.S. Marines and 25 Japanese soldiers, the Manila Bulletin reported on Wednesday.
“We have to be able to outsmart our enemies in the same way that we can maneuver this virus and can still continue to train, because we have a very big responsibility in terms of the defense and security of our people,” Caculitan said. said during the Kamandag opening ceremony at Fort Bonifacio in the town of Taguig, the newspaper reported.
A dozen Marines from Okinawa-based 3rd Marine Division are on Luzon Island to train with Filipino personnel primarily focused on coastal defense and counter-landing operations, Major Kurt Stahl said Thursday. , spokesperson for the division.
The training involving around 400 Marines that was scheduled for the Philippines has moved to Camp Fuji on the Japanese mainland and Okinawa due to the coronavirus pandemic, Stahl said.
“This training focused on moving to key sea terrain, establishing coastal defenses and practicing counter-landing operations,” he said.
One land-based weapon the Philippines is considering purchasing is the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, developed by Russia and India. The country could also acquire Boeing’s Harpoon anti-ship missile, according to Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.
The BrahMos can be launched from air, land, sea and underwater and can carry conventional warheads weighing up to 660 pounds. It has a range of 180 miles and no known weapon system can intercept it, according to BrahMos Aerospace.
“The Harpoon, first deployed in 1977, is an all-weather, over-the-horizon anti-ship missile system,” Boeing says on its website. “It has a low altitude, sea level cruising path with active radar guidance.”
The Harpoon weighs over 1,000 pounds and can fly up to 77 miles, depending on its technical specifications.
Weapons on land can provide the Philippines with a means to defend its maritime territory despite the clear limitations of the Philippine Air Force, Chong said in an email Thursday.
“That said, the effective use of these systems, especially with regard to gray area activities, could involve a degree of escalation that the Philippine government and its partners and allies wish to avoid,” he said. declared.
Gray zone tactics are coercive activities that fall outside of war. China has used them against the Philippines in recent years. For example, it has illegally occupied territory claimed by the Philippines and sent a fleet of maritime militias to harass fishermen entering disputed waters.
The Marine Corps and the Japanese Land Self-Defense Force have both explored the use of ground troops to shoot ships offshore, Chong said.
U.S. Marines, armed with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, and M777 towed howitzers were in Australia this summer to hone their sea denial and sea control skills from small expeditionary bases.