Australia has joined US and Philippine troops for a major military exercise

Photo: © Commonwealth of Australia/ Department of Defence.

The Australian defence force has begun military training with US and Philippine troops this week.

The BALIKATAN training is an annual exercise used to ensure troops are adequately prepared to respond to potential crises.

It has been reported that this year’s program will involve responding to issues that could eventuate from the disputed South China Sea.

Because of this, China has opposed the exercises suspecting the drills are part of efforts to contain Beijing.

All participating countries say the drills are not directed against China, and that they also focus on responding to natural disasters and humanitarian crises.

ADF Wing Commander Bill Talbot said the exercise allows the Australia to reaffirm its relationship with the Philippines while maintaining good interoperability with US Forces.

“Our participation reflects our close military working relationship with the Philippines, which has been reinforced in recent years with our support to disaster recovery efforts following Typhoon Haiyan. We also gifted two Australian heavy landing craft to the Philippines Navy last year,” Talbot said.

“We are grateful to both the Philippines and to US Pacific Command for the invitation to again participate in the BALIKATAN series.”

This is the third year that Australia has participated in the BALIKATAN series.

Australia’s contingent — 86 ADF personnel — is considerably smaller in comparison to that of the Philippines and US, which has thousands participating in the drills.

The exercise will run from April 4-16 and includes a staff exercise component, a field training exercise component that includes an amphibious landing exercise as well as a humanitarian civil action program on Panay Island.

US defence secretary Ash Carter will observe the exercises next week. Vietnam and Japan have also sent officers to observe, but their troops will not be participating.