Aviation assets from Australia, the Philippines, and the USA have participated in a joint training effort to target and destroy a decommissioned ship.

The work took place off the west coast of northern Luzon, which abuts the strategic Luzon Strait that divides the Philippines from Taiwan, according to an 8 May statement from the US Indo-Pacific Command.

USAF F-16 and Philippine Air Force FA-50

Source: US Indo-Pacific Command

US Air Force F-16s and Philippine air force FA-50s participated in the ship sinking effort

Several aircraft were involved in sensing, targeting, and striking the ship.

Two Boeing 737-derivatives, a P-8A from the US Navy and an E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force, participated. The E-7A was involved in relaying data to units that could then engage the target vessel.

Strike assets employed comprised Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50s from the Philippines, and US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16s and a Lockheed AC-130J Ghostrider gunship.

Land and sea assets were also involved in the effort, which stressed joint operability in integrated sensor networks.

Several weapons were involved, including GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, guided rockets, and Rafael Spike NLOS missiles.

“We know the lethality and capability of our munitions to sink maritime targets,” says US Marine Corps Colonel Douglas Krugman, director of the combined coordination centre.

Target ship

Source: US Indo-Pacific Command

Smoke pours from the ship following a hit

“This exercise was about the collective capability of our combined fires networks and increasing interoperability to sense and shoot targets from a variety of Philippine, US and Australian land, sea and air platforms.”

The effort was part of the larger Balikatan exercise between the Philippines and the USA.

Given China’s growing aggression against neighbouring countries such as the Philippines and Taiwan, the US military is placing significant emphasis on working with allies in the region.

The Indo-Pacific Command recently announced that Australia, Japan and the USA will step up efforts for joining training with the Lockheed F-35A, which all three countries operate. This was but one of several measures designed to enhance interoperability among allies in the region.