Surface Warfare Magazine
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2018 CARAT Builds Cooperation

​Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) is an annual, nine-country bilateral naval exercise series between the United States and Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Timor Leste and is designed to enhance capabilities in a broad spectrum of naval operations including maritime security skills and operational cohesiveness among participating forces.

This year’s exercise series is slated to run from mid-June to the end of November.

Already this year, the U.S. has partnered with the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Indonesian Navy and the Timor-Leste Defense Force. Additional phases of CARAT are scheduled to be held in Brunei and Bangladesh later this year. 

"The CARAT exercise series provides a unique and vital opportunity for our navies to understand the challenges inherent in a complex maritime environment, and on how to work through them in a cooperative manner," said Capt. Lex Walker, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. "Having been part of last year's CARAT exercise, this year marks a significant growth in our collective ability to work together in even more sophisticated scenarios, and I look forward to continuing this effective engagement next year and beyond."​​

In Thailand, more than 3,000 military personnel from the U.S. and Royal Thai Navy conducted nearly a dozen exercises at sea, over 20 symposiums and table-top exercises that covered the entire spectrum of naval operations, and daily band performances and sports engagements with schools and organizations throughout the area.

"We are pleased to operate at sea alongside our friends and partners from the U.S. Navy," said Capt Thumrong Supunpong, commander, Royal Thai Navy exercise task unit. "This CARAT exercise provides valuable opportunities for our navies to learn from each other and increase our ability to work cooperatively together in a variety of realistic scenarios. We are grateful to the U.S. Navy for their enduring partnership with the Royal Thai Navy."​​​


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The guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), expeditionary fast transport USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6), diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52) and a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft operated alongside Royal Thai Navy frigates HTMS Taskin, HTMS Naresuan and HTMS Bangprakong in cooperative evolutions in the Gulf of Thailand. Exercises included a gunnery exercise to maintain Sailors' readiness with on-board weapon systems, diving operations to promote mutual efficiency underwater, and an air defense exercise aimed to increase proficiency in air and missile defense.

"The strong partnership between the U.S. and Royal Thai Navy is built upon the enduring commitment and hard work of 24 years of CARAT exercises. Our navies operate effectively as a unified maritime force as a result of the mutual trust that has been strengthened over the last two decades of sailing together," said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. "We appreciate the commitment of our partners from the Royal Thai Navy for bringing their enthusiasm, knowledge and perspectives each year to this exercise that allows both navies to strengthen bonds while learning valuable skills from each other."

Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73 is the executive agent for more than 20 bilateral and multilateral security cooperation exercises with 14 nations in South and Southeast Asia including the CARAT series. The command and staff also oversees more than 50 ships and operational naval logistics forces in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, forward deployed littoral combat ships, and a Navy region ashore.

In Malaysia, which has been part of the CARAT exercise series since it began in 1995, expeditionary fast-transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 4) and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft conducted nearly a dozen at-sea exercises with the Royal Malaysian Navy including a gunnery exercise (GUNNEX) to maintain Sailors’ readiness with onboard weapon systems, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) exercise to increase and maintain proficiency in boarding vessels that may harbor illegal weapons and drugs, and division tactics (DIVTACS) to enhance cooperative fleet maneuvers.

“The aim of this exercise is to enhance interoperability as well as individual capacity to conduct amphibious operations at a tactical level,” said Maj. Gen. Dato’ Zulkapri bin Rahamat, General of Officer Commanding Task Force 450. “It is also to provide good opportunities for all of us to reshape ideas and experiences so that we can plan and conduct operations in the region whenever something arises.”

After more than two decades of annual training events between the armed forces, CARAT Malaysia remains a model for cooperation that has evolved in complexity and enables both navies to refine operations and tactics in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges.

"I have seen first-hand the professionalism of the Malaysian Armed Forces. Annually for the past 24 years our armed forces have engaged and exercised with each other in increasingly complex and sophisticated scenarios. Throughout this time we have learned much about each other - how we communicate and operate - and it is vital to effectively working together to ensure security, stability and prosperity in the region,” said Walker.

Mid-August saw the arrival of the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD 47) and elements from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Jakarta to kick off CARAT Indonesia, another country that has been part of the exercise series since its inception.

“With nearly 70 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, we value the long-lasting close partnership as we head into the first exercise between the U.S. Navy and Indonesia’s newly-designated ‘First Fleet’,” said Tynch. “The CARAT exercise builds upon more than 200 military exercises between the two partner nations, and we are excited to work closely with familiar faces and build new friendships towards ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity.”

“The United States and Indonesia have stood side-by-side through CARAT and real-world international and humanitarian crises which highlights the importance of exercises such as this,” said the honorable Joseph R. Donovan Jr., United States Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia.

CARAT Indonesia 2018 incorporated a robust sea phase involving a GUNNEX to maintain Sailors’ readiness with onboard weapon systems, air defense exercise (ADEX) aimed to increase proficiency in air and missile defense and a VBSS exercise to increase and maintain proficiency in boarding vessels that may harbor illegal weapons and drugs.

"The 2018 CARAT Indonesia exercise is a great opportunity to practice Rushmore's mission and to work alongside our Indonesian counterparts," said Cmdr. Rob Tryon, Rushmore commanding officer. "Rushmore Sailors and Marines are looking forward to participating in this premier exercise and building upon our partnership with the Indonesian Armed Forces."

During the exercise, the U.S. and Indonesian navies successfully employed the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) to communicate and share information through secure channels.

A global multinational information sharing initiative, CENTRIXS enabled Sailors and Marines from both navies to communicate in real-time during complex exercises including DIVTACS as ships maneuvered in close proximity, and amphibious landings as landing crafts and amphibious vehicles were launched from USS Rushmore.

“CENTRIXS has been used for nearly 10 years in CARAT Indonesia, and continues to be our main form of communication, especially during the sea phase,” said Lt. Cmdr. Astra Kamayi, CENTRIXS working group lead for the Indonesian Navy. “We have continued to gain more knowledge about CENTRIXS, and CARAT 2017 was the first time Sailors from the Indonesian Navy operated the CENTRIXS machines themselves.”

As part of the initiative to enhance maritime domain awareness towards regular synchronization and combination of information between partner nations, CARAT Indonesia 2018 incorporated seminars about CENTRIXS and SeaVision, a platform that enables partner and allied forces to track vessels by automatically collecting information onto a Google Maps powered display.

“CENTRIXS is a critical part of establishing secure networks, allowing everyone to confidently share sensitive information. As part of a much larger team working to better deploy and use this valuable tool, I am grateful that we were took another step towards better integration of day-to-day operations with our partner nation,” said Cmdr. Kevin Wagner, assistant chief of staff for communications and information systems at Commander Task Force 73.

“No nation can achieve maritime domain awareness alone. We need to trust each other in collaboration so that we are all looking at the same maritime picture,” said Tynch. “Maritime security, stability and prosperity is a common goal for all participants, and the tools – CENTRIXS and SeaVision – are there for us to ensure this. It is up to all of us to remain committed to each other by exchanging information towards shared maritime security responsibilities.”

The Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) welcomed the U.S. Navy to the Port Hera Navy Base to address shared maritime security concerns, build relationships and enhance interoperability among participating forces.

During this year's exercise, Sailors assigned to Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Det. Guam and 7th Fleet Surgeon’s Office trained with their F-FDTL counterparts at Port Hera and the surrounding area. The training consisted of medical and small boat subject matter expert exchanges as well as service projects, receptions and sporting events that allowed participants to interact with the local community.

“CARAT is a great opportunity to continue to build the framework for future training and subject matter expert exchanges,” said Capt. Robert Baughman, Commander, Task Force 75. “The past six years have strengthened a friendship and partnership that contributes to regional maritime security by enhancing our ability to work side-by-side across a wide range of naval competencies.”

The CARAT exercise is designed to strengthen the close partnership between navies while cooperatively ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity. The exercise series features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of partner nations to work together towards the common goal of ensuring a free, open, and stable Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.Surface Warfare Magazine

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