USS Stethem (DDG 63) fires its 5-inch gun at a surface target during the exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore. (U.S. Navy/MC1 John Pearl)

SINGAPORE - The U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy are engaged in the underway portion of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Singapore and have already exercised multiple tactical engagements during their annual bilateral maritime exercise.

The two navies conducted tactical maneuvering drills over the week-long underway period, to include ship anti-submarine warfare readiness/effectiveness measuring (SHAREM) and weapons exercises. According to Cmdr. Doug Pegher, commanding officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), the U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore navy are poised for added complexity due to their long-time maritime partnership, now 22 years through CARAT.

“I am extremely impressed these first few days of CARAT Singapore over [the RSN’s] tactical proficiency, and their ability to communicate well over radios,” said Pegher. “It is forcing us to step our game up to rise to their level of proficiency. They are extremely professional.”

According to Pegher, CARAT Singapore 2016 features some innovative and complex training opportunities for both navies.

“We have a tactical free play portion of the exercise that we have not had before. This will allow us to operate multiple warfare areas simultaneously,” said Pegher. “It is a testament to the Republic of Singapore Navy to be willing and able to execute such a complex tactical free play event with us.”

Pegher notes CARAT exercises present an opportunity for the U.S. and partner navies to gain experience and proficiency in potential real-world operations like humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, or tracking vessels of interest. Additionally, Stethem and her Sailors increase their tactical and ship handling skills during CARAT as well.

“We learn how to act as a warfare commander,” said Pegher. “That requires us to have a level of tactical proficiency that we usually do not have to demonstrate. It forces me and my crew to grow and become better tactically as well. The ship and the crew have performed admirably. We have enjoyed every opportunity to engage with our partner nations. We continue to develop those persistent and long lasting partnerships through the CARAT series of exercises.”

CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste. CARAT 2016 is the most complex series to date. Its continuing relevance for more than two decades speaks to the high quality of exercise events and the enduring value of regional cooperation among allies and partners in South and Southeast Asia.

U.S. assets participating in CARAT Singapore 2016 include Stethem, USS Spruance (DDG 111), Expeditionary Fast Transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-3), a P-8 Poseidon, and staff from Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7.

Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 staff conduct advanced planning, organize resources and directly support the execution of maritime exercises such as the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multilateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.