Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp arrives in the Philippines for exercise Balikatan

The US Navy’s forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) arrived in Subic Bay, on March 30, ahead of exercise Balikatan.

Wasp arrived in the Philippines with embarked Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) 4, which are led by 4th Marine Regiment.

This will be the first Balikatan drill to incorporate the Wasp with the embarked United States Marines Corps’ F-35B Lightning II aircraft.

Balikatan is an exercise between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, and also features participation from Australia. Balikatan is a Tagalog phrase for “shoulder-to-shoulder,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and represents the partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines.

“We are excited to visit the Philippines for the first time since Wasp was forward deployed to 7th Fleet,” said Capt. Colby Howard, Wasp’s commanding officer. “Balikatan is a great opportunity for the Navy, Marine Corps team and our allies from the Republic of the Philippines to learn from one another, and further improve our ability operate together.”

During Balikatan 2019, US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response. All events will take place in Luzon and Palawan.

Balikatan 2019 will also bring together ASEAN members for an International Observers Program. The program aims to promote greater defense cooperation with ASEAN and other key allies and partners.

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

USS Wasp is the flagship for the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group and is currently forward deployed to the US 7th Fleet area of operations to provide a ready-response force for any type of contingency.

Photo: USS Wasp (LHD 1) sailors man the rails while arriving in Subic Bay for exercise Balikatan. Photo: US Navy