CESAR BASA AIR BASE, Philippines -- U.S. and Philippine air forces airmen marked the successful completion of 12 days of bilateral training and increased mutual cooperation during the seventh iteration of Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines (BACE-P) here, Feb. 1, 2019.
The first iteration of BACE-P was conducted April 16, 2016 by the Pacific Air Forces at the direction of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. This year's iteration of BACE-P was unique for its incorporation of fighter aircraft at Basa Air Base, in particular U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons.
“Having the F-16 fighter [at Basa] allowed us to interact with our (Philippine air force) partners along with their FA-50s and in turn helped to strengthen our interoperability and training with a key partner,” said Col. Christopher Faurot, BACE-P 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron commander.
“Through this engagement, our bilateral forces increased their interoperability and our partners demonstrated that they are a disciplined, professional and highly motivated force,” he added.
In addition to interfly training between the U.S. Air Force F-16s and the PAF FA-50s, Airmen conducted subject matter expert exchanges on topics to include crash recovery, communications, flightline, and maintenance back-shop operations, concluding with a large force exercise on the last day.
“It’s been terrific,” said Lt Col. Tom Kanewske, 121st Fighter Squadron pilot. “As part of the bilateral engagement we’ve really focused on the sharing of best practices, so whether it’s our air-to-air and air-to-ground training with them as pilots or also reaching out to their ground forces -- their forward air controllers -- to that cross-sharing of information across survival specialists or maintainers, that level of engagement is something we don’t normally get in the international bilateral format, so it’s really been wonderful.”
These exchanges consistently promote interoperability, build upon the foundation of a strong U.S.-Philippines’ alliance, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
“Bilateral engagement really matters,” said Kanewske. “We have seen a great degree of coalescing around joint tactics so the ability to see that improvement over a two-week time period provides us all the more momentum we need to keep these engagements on schedule and continue to show that overall joint improvement.”
Likewise, Maj Mario Mendazo, a PAF FA-50 pilot with the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron, expressed his appreciation for the bilateral exchange.
“The U.S. Air Force [shared with] us a lot of [knowledge] throughout this exercise that we can really apply in the near future,” said Mendazo. “During our exchange, I learned a lot when it comes to fighter operations, specifically air-to-air and air-to-ground. Air-to-air-like intercepts of different kinds of targets, threats airborne, and … threats on the ground specifically dealing with close air support missions."
A long-standing bilateral reoccurring exchange, the engagement focused on enhancing mutual cooperation and building on existing capabilities. Moreover, the relationships fostered through this exchange were also a key component to a successful partnership.
“The future holds bright for the United States and the Philippines’ partnership when it comes to making our respective militaries stronger and being able to work together towards future missions,” said Mendazo. “I see a stronger alliance in the future and brighter days ahead for the two countries.”
Kanewske echoed his sentiment regarding the importance of continuing to foster and develop the USAF-PAF partnership.
“I think it’s a necessity that we continue growing our partnership,” said Kanewske. “These degrees of engagements will only further our combined strategic objectives and we see the Philippine Air Force and the [Armed Forces of the] Philippines in general as a major contributor to the overall regional stability in the Pacific.”