US F-35Bs in Philippines for wargames

Several units of United States Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft embarked on US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) arrived in Subic on March 30 to participate in US-Philippines Balikatan 2019.

The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) approaches Subic Bay in preparation of Exercise Balikatan. March 30, 2019. US Navy photo

“This will be the first Exercise Balikatan to incorporate the Wasp with the embarked United States Marines Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft,” USS Wasp Public Affairs said in a statement.

“Together they (Wasp and F-35B aircraft) represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Participating in Balikatan demonstrates their ability to quickly forward deploy in support of an ally should a crisis or natural disaster occur,” it added.

Balikatan 2019 activities will be held in Luzon and Palawan where US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response.

The US military said this year’s Balikatan focuses on maritime security and amphibious capabilities, as well as multinational interoperability through military exchanges.