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28 May 2024

U.S. Marines alongside Philippine Marines concluded Littoral Zone Reconnaissance Cobra

U.S. Marines alongside Philippine Marines concluded Littoral Zone Reconnaissance Cobra
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service / Story by 1st Lt. Anne Pentaleri

U.S. Marines with 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, alongside Philippine Marines with 4th Marine Brigade and the Coastal Defense Regiment concluded Littoral Zone Reconnaissance Cobra, ending a week-long bilateral command post training exercise aimed at enhancing interoperability, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures, and supporting combined and joint maritime domain awareness, in Luzon, Philippines, May 24, 2024.

LZR Cobra took place during Archipelagic Coastal Defense Continuum, a series of bilateral exchanges and training opportunities between U.S. Marines and Philippine Marines aimed at bolstering the Philippine Marine Corps’ Coastal Defense strategy while supporting the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On May 20, U.S. Marines with 3rd MLR’s headquarters element and 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, alongside Philippine Marines with the Coastal Defense Regiment demonstrated cooperation and interoperability by establishing Combined Joint Task Force – Luzon for the purpose of the exercise. The U.S. and Philippine Marines kicked off LZR Cobra with an orders development class to synchronize planning procedures among participants.
The class began when Capt. Mario Desalvo, a primary staff officer with 3rd MLR, addressed the room to brief the Marines on the scenario they would be operating in for the next week. He pointed to a screen projecting a map of Luzon with the LZR Cobra problem set depicted.

“The mission for the scenario is for CJTF-L to conduct unified actions to deter adversarial aggression, ensure Philippine sovereignty, and, if deterrence fails, to conduct decisive action in support of regional security,” said Desalvo. “Together, we will develop an operations order for the simulated execution of sea control and power projection within the Luzon area of operations, calling upon interoperability, refined tactics, techniques, and procedures, and combined command and control to successfully deter the adversary.”

As the CJTF-L Marines in southern Luzon collaborated to develop a comprehensive plan to preserve Philippine territorial integrity, U.S. Marines with 3rd Littoral Combat Team and Philippine Marines with 4th Marine Brigade gathered in Northern Luzon to contribute their capabilities and assets to the scenario. This distribution of forces added realism and complexity to the problem, significantly enhancing the training value.

At Camp Cape Bojeador, a Stalker VXE30 small unmanned aerial system performed its signature vertical take-off capability and departed for the littoral zone surrounding the Batanes island group. Using a videogame-like joystick to control the system’s movements and flight pattern while watching the Stalker’s visual feed on computer screens, U.S. Marines demonstrated their sUAS-enabled intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities with their Philippine Marine counterparts to provide the CJTF-L near real-time maritime domain awareness. On Naval Base Camilo Osias, 3rd MLR and 4th Marine Brigade Marines doubled down on collection efforts by employing a second Stalker VXE30 and a Skydio X2D sUAS.

For the subsequent four days, the headquarters element of the 3rd LCT fueled the scenario by passing a combination of real-time and supplemental intelligence reports to the CJTF-L. Between bilateral subject matter expert exchanges, the U.S. and Philippine Marines with the CJTF-L reconvened to update and refine the exercise operations order with the information provided by the outstations.

“LZR Cobra increased the proficiency of 3d MLR, Coastal Defense Regiment, and 4th Marine Brigade Marines,” said Lt. Col. John Strange, an operations officer with 3rd MLR. “Together, we executed preparatory classes, detailed planning, and multiple scenarios utilizing a combined U.S. and Philippine Marine Corps Combat Operations Center. The scenarios focused on our combined ability to facilitate maritime domain awareness and execute littoral defensive operations. All the units participating learned valuable lessons that we will capitalize on during future training events this year and next year.”

At the Philippine government’s request, the U.S. Marines with 3rd MLR remained in the Philippines after the conclusion of Balikatan 24, an annual combined and joint exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military, to continue bilateral training with their Philippine Marine Corps counterparts throughout the month of May under ACDC. In early June, both groups will transition to Marine Aviation Support Activity, a bilateral exercise conducted in the Philippines between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Philippine Marine Corps to enhance capabilities, interoperability, and coordination focusing on aviation-supported operations. These bilateral training exercises demonstrate both nations' commitment to enhancing interoperability and highlight their dedication to realistic and persistent training opportunities that build on previous iterations.

“With every iteration, we continuously leverage the valuable insights and expertise gained to ensure regional security and stability,” said Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippine exercise director for Balikatan 24. “The successful execution of this exercise underscores the strengthened cooperation between the Philippines and the United States in defending our shores.”

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