US and Filipino Navies begin joint maritime training course

Members of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team aboard littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) prepare to board Philippine Navy ship BRP BATAK (LC 299) during a VBSS exercise for Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama 2017

The US and Philippines Navies kicked off Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama at Naval Station Ernesto Ogbinar in San Fernando City, Philippines, on 9 July. The week-long engagement focuses on the full spectrum of naval capabilities and is designed to strengthen the close partnership between both navies while cooperatively ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity.

Expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3), diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) and a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft will operate alongside Philippine Navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (FF 16) and landing dock ship BRP Tarlac (LD 601) in at-sea evolutions in the South China Sea. Evolutions include air defense exercises (ADEX) aimed to increase proficiency in air and missile defense, diving exercises (DIVEX) to promote mutual efficiency underwater, and search and rescue exercises (SAREX) designed to enhance capabilities in aid-and-assistance to distressed mariners.

Shore phase evolutions include symposiums and seminars on a wide range of naval capabilities including medical, public affairs, engineering, explosive ordnance disposal and anti-submarine and surface operations, all taking place in San Fernando City, San Antonio, Manila and Subic.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will join the exercise as an observer and valued partner.

"The name of this Maritime Training Activity, Sama Sama, - meaning ‘together, jointly’ - perfectly captures the spirit and energy of this tremendous event. The U.S. and Philippine alliance has always been a special relationship based on mutual trust and respect and strengthened by enduring maritime engagements," said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, Commander, Task Force 73. "Built on 70 years of strong friendship and deep historical ties, our shared interest in maritime security is what Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama is all about - our shared belief that regional challenges increasingly require cooperative solutions by capable naval forces."

MTA Sama Sama builds upon other engagements with the Philippines including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), which involves more than a dozen partner nations, and Balikatan-34. These engagements serve to enhance information sharing and coordination and support long-term regional cooperation.

"This training provides us with an exceptional opportunity for both Philippine and US Navies to engage in a broader range of maritime operations and unique scenarios in our maritime areas. In this way, we could explore for more cooperation, enhance our interoperability, and provide us effective mechanisms for collaboration and partnership of our Navies in the spirit of our mutual treaty engagement,” said Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, Commander, Northern Luzon Command. “Notably, this Maritime Training Activity demonstrates the extraordinary commitment of our Navies in building and strengthening our partnership in keeping with our bilateral relations as long time ally. As such, this year's exercise focuses on developing mutual capabilities in addressing maritime security priorities and concern for mutual benefits and interests.”

US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis


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