Six U.S. military aircraft that stayed behind at Clark Air Base after the 2016 Balikatan exercises have conducted a fly ops in the Scarborough Shoal according to the Pacific Air Forces.
“The A-10s and HH-60s conducted a flying mission through the international airspace in the vicinity of Scarborough Shoal west of the Philippines providing air and maritime situational awareness,” said the Pacific Air Forces in a public 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 is within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. Known as a rich fishing ground, China also claims it and regularly deploying coast guard ships in the area.
The six U.S. aircraft which consists of four A-10s Thunderbolt and two HH-60G Pave Hawks are part of the US Pacific Command’s Air Contingent deployed to Clark during the 2016 Balikatan Exercises.
“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 statement.
According to Col. Larry Card, commander of the Air Contingent, their 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,”
“Interoperability with the Philippine military is at the forefront of our mission,” Card said. “The stand-up 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,” He added.