The U.S. Navy Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) completed Exercise Balikatan 2023 (BK23), April 28 with a closing ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines. U.S. and Philippine relationships are based on strong historical and cultural linkages and a shared commitment to democracy and human rights. Balikatan presented an opportunity for personnel from the AFP and the Makin Island ARG comprised of USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Anchorage (LPD 23) and USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), to work together to address challenges related to the Mutual Defense Treaty, counter-terrorism threats, humanitarian assistance and disaster response. The 1951 U.S. Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty provides a strong foundation for the U.S. and Philippine’s present-day partnership. This alliance facilitates an open, interconnected, resilient, and secure Indo-Pacific region.
Makin Island participated in Combined Joint Logistics Over the Shore, in which heavy supplies and equipment were loaded onto landing craft, air cushions and transported to the beach. A temporary bilateral, multifunctioning team was established on shore to transfer fuel to and from ships, stage and operate heavy equipment, and conduct vehicle convoys. The ability to execute amphibious offload operations ensures the AFP and U.S. military are ready to respond to crisis and contingencies at short notice. Anchorage’s Sailors, and Marines assigned to 1st Reconnaissance, 13th MEU, conducted a Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) exercise on expeditionary mobile base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5). VBSS provides a variety of scenario injects that require situational analysis, communication, and bilateral decision making. This exercise provided unparalleled opportunities to demonstrate the strength and readiness of the U.S.- Philippine security alliance.
The Makin Island ARG participated in a group sail alongside Miguel Keith, and Philippine navy ships BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PS 15), and BRP Tarlac (FF 601) in the South China Sea. This event enhances our forces’ communication, techniques and procedures across a wide range of operations while assuring a high degree of interoperability. Makin Island and AFP conducted a sink exercise which consisted of AFP staging a floating target with the goal of capsizing it. Makin Island launched their 6 F-35B Lightning IIs—fifth generation strike fighters assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 13th MEU—and employed 4 GPS guided munitions onto the target, successfully capsizing it.
For the final phase of Balikatan 23, Makin Island conducted a simulated amphibious raid at Brooke’s Point, offloading U.S. Marines to conduct live fire training, and bilateral long-range fires in a coastal defense training scenario. Field training exercises create valuable training opportunities for both partners to develop proficiency in coastal defense concepts, as well as build camaraderie and respect among service members at every level. The Makin Island ARG, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations with the embarked 13th MEU to enhance interoperability with Allies and partners and serve as a ready-response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.