‘In time of peace, prepare for war’

“THE more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war,” United States Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the author of the Allied victory in the 1st Gulf War, was reported to have said.

In a nutshell, this means the more allied land, air and naval units train in peace time, the more efficient and coherent this force can be if called to action to protect the country’s security interests.

The just concluded “DAGIT-PA” exercises of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is deemed one such way to keep Filipino military personnel sharp and updated in their battlefield tactics and modern weaponry. Such exercises are starting to become a common sight with the ongoing modernization program jumpstarted by the Aquino administration and continued with some adjustments by its successor Duterte government.

DAGIT-PA stands for Dagat-Langit-Lupa, which focuses on enhancing the readiness of the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force in joint and combined operations that mirror a real-world scenario.

Multidimensional

On its sixth iteration, this year’s DAGIT-PA started from November 7 to 18, gave opportunity to participating units to conduct staff exercise and cyber defense exercise in the Puerto Princesa, Palawan-based Western Command; and field training exercises, namely air defense operations, counter-air operations, maritime security operations, amphibious operations, combined arms and littoral live-fire exercise and unconventional warfare and counter-terrorism operations in the province, while various tabletop exercises were held at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Philippine military chief Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro speaks during a ceremony to mark U.S. Veterans Day at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

“The execution of the joint exercises has effectively upskilled the men and women of the AFP and upgraded organizational capabilities. Clearly, DAGIT-PA 06-2022 has enhanced the One AFP Team concept through improved interoperability and readiness for deployment in the joint operational environment at any given time,” AFP chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Vicente Bacarro said in a speech during the DAGIT-PA closing ceremonies held on November 18.

Brand-new assets

SOME 1,500 troops participated in these maneuvers and brand-new assets used in the DAGIT-PA included the newly acquired and second missile frigate of the Navy, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), the landing dock BRP Tarlac (LD-601), two FA-50PH light jet fighters and two A-29 “Super Tucano” close-air support aircraft, to name a few.

Meanwhile, “DAGIT-PA” exercise director, and AFP Education Training and Doctrine Command chief Brig. Gen. Marvin Licudine, said the two-week unilateral exercise was a success and attained its objectives.

“From the planning and coordination to the execution, the AJEX [AFP Joint Exercises] DAGIT-PA 2022 was a success and has attained its objectives. Our AFP has enhanced the conduct of crisis planning and joint military operations in territorial defense of the different mission areas,” he noted.

During the field training and staff exercises, key units were able to identify needed military hardware and capabilities that will form part of the military’s modernization program.

While it would not be possible to get detailed after actions of these various exercises, it would be safe to say that the AFP and its major service commands did not do too badly to integrate their operations together using their newly acquired naval and air assets.

Advanced weaponry

The most telling of all the exercises held in the DAGIT-PA is the demonstration of BRP Antonio Luna’s advanced weapons and sensor capabilities during naval shore bombardment and air defense drills.

Some 10 years ago, such feats would have not been possible as the AFP, especially the Navy as bulk of its assets consists of aging World War II ships, not fit for operations, much more combat, in today’s era of radar-guided missiles and highly accurate and fast-firing automatic cannons.

The BRP Antonio Luna simulated the firing of its Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid Multi-Feeding (SRMF) Gun during a “Naval Surface Fire Support” (NSFS) at Brooke’s Point, Palawan, last week.

“Prior to this event, a series of lectures and conferences was conducted with the Marine Battalion Landing Team (MBLT-6) to properly execute this serial,” a post on the BRP Antonio Luna’s Facebook page said on November 22.

NSFS is defined as bombardment that aligns with the seizure of the objective by destroying or neutralizing defenses that oppose the landing and troop advancement.

Big naval guns

“IN advantage, the rapid loading ability of naval guns such as the 76mm SRMF makes it possible to deliver a large volume of fire in a short period of time and their small dispersion and deflections make them effective and valuable for close support fire of troops,” it added.

Earlier in August, BRP Antonio Luna won third place in the NSFS Rodeo competition in this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, besting 14 other vessels from various allied navies. Aside from the NSFS, BRP Antonio Luna also successfully participated in simulating the detection and engagement of air contacts.

The BRP Antonio Luna and its sister ship, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), are equipped with MBDA Mistral 3 surface-to-air missiles.

“DAGIT-PA exercise thru ADEX [air defense exercise] has provided the ship’s crew a learning experience in the dynamics of air threats and further test their readiness to respond in a real-time scenario,” the Facebook post added.

And with more modern assets coming for the AFP in the coming years, expect future DAGIT-PAs to be more platform- and technology-intensive.

Image credits: Armed Forces of the Philippines , AP/Aaron Favila