For the first time, the United States military will send its HIMARS mobile artillery platform during this year’s Balikatan Exercises with the Philippine troops next month amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The “M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System” or HIMARS, will be deployed in a live-fire drill at the Crow Valley gunnery range in Tarlac.

According to Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, Balikatan’s public affairs officer, it is not clear how many HIMARS the US will be brought here in the Philippines.

“We would like to make it clear that this is just like any other exercises, we just put up some good stuff, especially the mobility exercise and the HIMARS coming in as part of the live-fire exercises,” Sayson said.

HIMARS is a US light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a standard Army Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV) truck frame. It can fire six rockets or one MGM-140 ATACMs missile and has a maximum firing range of 300 kilometres (186.4 mi).

A total of 3,773 Filipino troops and 4,904 US troops will take part in the Balikatan Exercises that will begin on April 4 and will end on April 15.