MANILA, Philippines – The navies of the Philippines, Japan, and the United States conducted naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Wednesday, October 22, involving one of the most capable US ships, the USS George Washington strike group.
“The BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF 15) of the Philippine Navy joined the George Washington Carrier Strike Group off the coast of the Philippines from October 22-23 to conduct maneuvering, communications and gunnery exercises to further enhance their ability to work together and demonstrate their commitment to the US-Philippines alliance,” the US Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.
Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JS Sazanami also participated in the two-day naval exercises, according to Philippine Navy public information officer Lieutenant Commander Marineth Domingo.
Domingo said the Japanese ship is under the operational control of USS George Washington, the floating military air base forward deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations that is based in Yokosuka, Japan.
The Philippines and Japan have maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea.
The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has a crew of about 5,500 sailors – 320 of whom are Filipino-American. It can carry up to 80 aircrafts. The USS George Washington is now in Manila for a routine port call, the US Embassy said.
The naval exercises began at 5:30 am on Wednesday, October 22, when the USS George Washington, including the JS Sazanami, had a rendezvous in West Philippine Sea.
The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, JS Sazanami, and the missile guided cruiser USS Antietam, which is a part of the USS George Washington battle group participated in the gunnery exercises.
The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar proved to be a good aim, boasted Domingo. “PF 15 fired at dummy target. It was actually very successful. PF 15 proved to be a sniper,” she said.
In a theoretical scenario, the dummy target – called the “red tomato” because of the color – could be a ship or an airplane of the enemy, said Domingo.
She said the 3 navies also executed the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), an agreement between foreign navies to avoid confrontations at sea.
The USS George Washington was also among the first responders in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that flattened towns and cities in the Visayas November last year. It provided more than 335,000 liters of water and 36,360 kilos of food and supplies in support of relief efforts. – Rappler.com
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