• The air combat training is called Cope Thunder Philippines
  • Drills will involve the F-16 multirole fighters of the U.S. Air Force's 35th Fighter Wing and the FA-50 trainer jets of the PAF
  • "This is to prepare us for 'real-world scenario' in air combat," a PAF source said

Shortly after the conclusion of joint military exercises Balikatan on Friday, air forces from the U.S. and Philippines are set to revive an air combat training that concluded in 1991 following the closure of army bases in Clark and Subic Bay.

The air combat training, dubbed Cope Thunder Philippines, is set to take place at Clark Air Force Base from May 1 to 12, just a few days after the end of the Balikatan exercises involving 18,000 combined troops from the U.S., Philippines and Australian armed forces. The joint military drills took place amid China's continued assertiveness in the region.

"Cope Thunder Philippines is designed to provide bilateral fighter training with the Philippine Air Force and improve combined interoperability. Approximately 160 USAF service members are expected to fly, maintain and support more than 12 aircraft from the 35 Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan units during this iteration of the exercise," the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs (PACAF) said, according to the Inquirer.

Aimed at improving combined interoperability between the two air forces, Cope Thunder Philippines would involve bilateral fighter training with the two army groups exchanging tactics, techniques and procedures in aircraft operations, PACAF reportedly noted.

"It provides a unique opportunity to integrate forces and improve interoperability between the Philippines and the United States," PACAF said, as reported by the Philippine Star.

The drills will involve the F-16 multirole fighters of the US Air Force's 35th Fighter Wing and the FA-50 trainer jets of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

"This is to prepare us for 'real-world scenario' in air combat," a PAF source told the Inquirer.

Cope Thunder began in the Philippines in 1976 but was halted after Mount Pinatubo's eruption that caused damage to military facilities in 1991. This was followed by the Philippine Senate voting against the extension of U.S. military presence in the country in the same year.

Meanwhile, militant groups opposed the holding of another round of joint military training activities between Filipino and American soldiers.

"It is U.S. militarism that has kept us in this sorry state for nearly eight decades," Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, said, according to the Philippine Star.

"Peasant women should unite with the Filipino people to defend the country's national sovereignty against the continuing military intervention of the U.S. government," Zenaida Soriano, president of the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, said, as per the outlet.

US Marines at a camp during the 2016 Balikatan exercises with Philippine forces. This year's war games will be the allies' largest ever joint military exercises