The six United States military aircraft used in the Balikatan exercises that stayed behind at Clark Air Base have conducted flying operations in the contested Scarborough Shoal for its first maritime situational awareness flight.
“The A-10s and HH-60s conducted a flying mission through international airspace in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal west of the Philippines providing air and maritime situational awareness,” said the Pacific Air Forces Public in a statement on Thursday.
“These missions promote transparency and safety of movement in international waters and airspace, representing the US commitment to ally and partner nations and to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’s continued stability now and for generations to come.”
Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground off Zambales, is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. It is also claimed by China, which regularly deploys its Coast Guard ships in the area.
Four A-10s Thunderbolt and two HH-60G Pave Hawks were part of the aircraft left behind at Clark Air Base after the annual US-Philippine drills that concluded recently.
These warplanes, which are part of the US Pacific Command’s Air Contingent deployed to Clark, will conduct operations from air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, and combating piracy. The first flight was conducted on April 19.
“Missions such as this one promote transparency and safety of movement in international waters and airspace, and showcase the US commitment to ally and partner nations as well as to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’s continued stability,” the US Embassy in Manila said in a separate statement.
“Our job is to ensure air and sea domains remain open in accordance with international law. That is extremely important, international economics depends on it—free trade depends on our ability to move goods,” said Col. Larry Card, commander of the Air Contingent.
“Interoperability with the Philippine military is at the forefront of our mission,” Card said. “The standup of the Air Contingent promotes this collective focus as we build upon our already strong alliance, and reaffirm our commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Card added. RC