US and Philippine troops are training to repel an island invasion amid South China Sea tensions

news
U.S. Marine rifleman Lance Cpl. Hunter Bell during a live-fire range at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base in the Philippines, April 6, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Isaiah Campbell)

U.S. and Philippine troops have reportedly been training for a potential island invasion scenario, which is a real possibility as tensions rise in the disputed South China Sea.


On Wednesday, U.S. and Filipino forces conducted a joint airfield seizure exercise on a Lubang Island, located adjacent to the sea, in what was a first for the allies, Channel News Asia reported Thursday.

The drill was practice for a real-world situation in which a foreign power has seized control of an island in the Philippines, taking over the its airfield, GMA News reported.

"If they [the Filipinos] were to have any small islands taken over by a foreign military, this is definitely a dress rehearsal that can be used in the future," Maj. Christopher Bolz, a US Army Special Forces company commander involved in planning the exercises, told CNA.

"I think the scenario is very realistic, especially for an island nation such as the Philippines," Bolz added.

U.S. Marines and Philippine marines land on the beach in assault amphibious vehicles during an exercise in Subic Bay, Philippines, October 3, 2018(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Christine Phelps)

The Philippines requested this type of training last year. "The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must be ready to any eventualities," Lt. Col. Jonathan Pondanera, commander of the exercise control group with the AFP-SOCOM, explained.

Balikatan exercises are focused primarily on "maintaining a high level of readiness and responsiveness, and enhancing combined military-to-military relations and capabilities," the Marine Corps said in a recent statement. Balikatan means "shoulder to shoulder" in Tagalog.

Both the U.S. military and the Marines have stressed that the ongoing exercises are not aimed at China, although some of the activities, such as the counter-invasion drills, seem to suggest otherwise.

Thitu Island, known as Pagasa in the Philippines, is the only Philippine-controlled island in the contested South China Sea with an airfield, and the current drills come as Manila has accused China of sending paramilitary forces to "swarm" this particular territory.

"Let us be friends, but do not touch Pagasa Island and the rest," Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a recent message to China. "If you make moves there, that's a different story. I will tell my soldiers, 'Prepare for suicide mission.'"

The Philippine-occupied Thitu island, known as Pagasa, in the South China Sea, April 21, 2017(Reuters)

The Philippines lacks the firepower to stand up to China, but it is protected under a Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines, stating that "any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft, or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations."

For the 35th iteration of the Balikatan exercises, the U.S. sent the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp with 10 F-35s — an unusually heavy configuration of the stealth fighter. This marks the first time the F-35 has participated in these exercises.

Recently, the Wasp was spotted running flight operations in the vicinity of the disputed Scarborough Shoal, territory China seized from the Philippines by force roughly seven years ago.

The Philippines took the dispute before an international arbitration tribunal in 2016 and won. Beijing, however, rejected the ruling, as well as the tribunal's authority.

Read more from Business Insider:

SEE ALSO: Marines Just Seized A Small Island In The Pacific As Training For A Looming China Fight

WATCH NEXT: An F-35 Lands On The USS Wasp In The South China Sea

Oops (Twitter)

There's something very, very wrong with a recent tweet from the official Twitter account of the Defense Department. Can you spot it?

Let's zoom in, just in case.

The main takeaways from this whole incident:

1. That's clearly a Stryker, not a Paladin.

2. The use of #KnowYourMil in this tweet is the funniest self-inflicted wound of 2019.

3. We have no idea how the crew of this Stryker, clearly named 'Tazerface,' might feel about this flub, but we can venture a guess according to the vehicle's Guardians of the Galaxy namesake:

I love this job.

Two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday in a helicopter crash, military officials have announced.

Read More Show Less
The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, June 17, 2017 (U.S. Navy photo)

Two years after a pair of deadly collisions involving Navy ships killed 17 sailors and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, the Navy still can't figure out whether its plan to improve ship-driving training has been effective.

In fact, according to senior Navy officials quoted in a recent Government Accountability Office report on Navy ship-driving, it could take nearly 16 years or more to know if the planned changes will actually have an impact.

Read More Show Less
Chief Master Sgt. Jason Morehouse. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The command chief of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, was removed from his position last month after his chain of command received evidence he disrespected his subordinates.

Read More Show Less
Roxanne Roellchen interacts with her sons in their family's new home, which they moved into after experiencing roaches, leaks and black mold at another property, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas U.S. November 16, 2019. (Reuters/Callaghan O'Hare)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - A U.K. company that provides housing to U.S. military families came under official investigation earlier this year, after Reuters disclosed it had faked maintenance records to pocket performance bonuses at an Oklahoma Air Force base.

At the time, Balfour Beatty Communities said it strove to correctly report its maintenance work. It blamed any problems on a sole former employee at the Oklahoma base.

Now, Reuters has found that Balfour Beatty employees systematically doctored records in a similar scheme at a Texas base.

Read More Show Less