ASIDE from 4,904 troops, the United States will also deploy multiple rocket launchers during the two-week "Balikatan 2016" military exercise from April 4 to 15, the Armed Forces announced Monday.

Balikatan spokesman Captain Celeste Frank Sayson said an undetermined number of M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) will be demonstrated at Crow Valley in Tarlac before it is brought to Palawan.

"Part of the simulated live fire exercises in Crow Valley is the Himars which is for air protection," Sayson told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"It is also an anti-ship warfare, ground warfare asset. So that will be used during the live fire exercises and later on it will be brought to Palawan, although we will not have live fire exercises there," Sayson added.

Developed by the US Army in 1998, the multiple rocket launcher was first deployed in Iraq in 2007.

The Himars carries six rockets or one tactical missile on a five-ton truck that is transportable by a C-130 cargo plane. It is the weapons system that followed the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket system that is widely used by member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The Himars is also similar to the Shore-Based Missile System that the country wanted to acquire from Israel until AFP chief General Hernando Irriberi shelved the project in favor of helmets, body armor and rifles.

But Sayson clarified the missile deployment was only for the annual Balikatan exercise and has no other purpose.

"We would like to make it clear that these exercises, it has nothing to do with the emerging threat or what is emerging in the West Philippine Sea," he said, adding that 3,773 Filipino troops and about 80 Australians will also join the exercises.

"This exercise for this year [is] to enhance maritime law enforcement as well as to enhance techniques, tactics and procedures which is a critical part of interoperability of our forces," he said.

Military observers are also expected from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India, Japan, South Korea, and Timor Leste.

Sayson said the US "will be sending 55 aircrafts" for the aerial maneuvers.

"For the ship, US will be sending out at least five or more and the Philippines will also be committing at least two ships, our main battle ships," he said.

Source: the Standard