For the first time, the US deployed Patriot missiles in the Philippines.

In the Balikatan joint exercise, the US military transported four Patriot launchers to the Philippines, marking the first time this air defence missile complex has taken part in the event.

US Patriot launch vehicle at Aparri, Philippines on March 28. Photo: US Army .

Major Kurt Stahl, a spokesman for the US 3rd Marine Division, said four Patriot missile launchers and 130 Marines from the US Army’s 1st Air Defense Regiment were dispatched from Okinawa, Japan, to the Philippines on March 28.

According to Stahl, the March 29 drill, which was part of Balikatan 22, was “the first time the Patriot missile system was deployed in the Philippines.”

“After being transported ashore in Aparri by hovercraft, the Patriot complex went inland for several days during a training course in the protection of Luzon island’s northern coastline zone,” Major Stahl said. “Patriot complexes give the US Marines capabilities that they don’t have.”

The Patriot complex practised protection against high-altitude threats in joint exercises with the Philippine military, while the US Marines focused on low-altitude air defence using the FIM-92 Stinger missile.

From March 28 to April 8, 5,100 US troops and 3,800 Filipino soldiers took part in Exercise Balikatan 22 on the island of Luzon. The largest-ever Balikatan exercise, according to Philippine military leader General Andres Centino, “reflects the increasing alliance” between the two countries.

The US and Philippine forces hold Exercise Balikatan every year, however it has recently been cancelled or scaled back because to Covid-19. Balikatan 22 took place in the midst of escalating tensions in the South China Sea, where China claims illegitimate sovereignty over the vast majority of the region.

The MIM-104 Patriot is a US-developed anti-aircraft missile that has been in service since 1981. According to the US Missile Defense Agency, the PAC-2 model, or MIM-104C, can hit targets more than 96 kilometres away and fly at altitudes of more than 32,000 metres.

The PAC-3, also known as the MIM-104F, is the most recent iteration in the Patriot line and is capable of neutralising air threats such as fighters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.

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