The Philippines is considering to acquire an advanced US long-range rocket launcher amid China’s sweeping expansion in the disputed South China Sea.
The US Marines showcased its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) on Thursday in Tarlac, in front of top Philippine defense and military officials and US representatives, as part of the US-PH live fire drills for this year’s Balikatan exercises.
“This is something new actually, in the procurement systems and even our items for consideration now because I know the authorities of the military would like to have a good look at it and maybe a better consideration coming up with one,” exercise director for the Philippine side and Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said.
“We have seen the capability, highly mobile, lethal so I think that’s one of the capability we want to have,” he added.
The Philippine government earlier included an equipment similar to the HIMARS in its modernization program, the Shore-Based Missile System worth P6.5 billion, but was realigned by then Army commander and now Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri in favor of helmets, rifles and night goggles for the Philippine Army.
Lopez said after the live fire drills that they were all impressed of the HIMARS. “Even the Secretary of the National Defense was impressed on how the HIMARS was used and how it moved in a rapid fashion.”
The HIMARS can be used for any threat and is highly mobile, he explained.
Lt. Gen. John Toolan, the US Marine Corps Pacific commander and counterpart of Lopez in the Balikatan, said that the system has a range of 300 kilometers, and they are looking at testing it off the deck of the ship.
“You have seen the capability of the HIMARS and in a long shot we need this kind of of capability so we can raise the skills and respect for your armed forces, not only for the Philippines but within our region,” he said.
Asked if the HIMARS would be deployed to the country, Tooland said: “You know as allies we need to work together and I think that we’ll be more happy to share.”