Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) sails in formation with ships from the Royal Thai Navy as part of a division tactics exercise during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Thailand, June 3. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Deven Leigh Ellis)

SATTAHIP, Thailand - After eight days of bilateral training events ashore and at sea, the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Thai Navy (RTN) concluded the 23rd-annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, at Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand, June 6.

As the premier naval engagement in South and Southeast Asia, CARAT provides a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia. The Royal Thai Navy has been a participant in the CARAT series since the exercises began in 1995.

"Over the past eight days our Sailors and Marines worked side-by-side with their Thai counterparts in conducting a variety of training events ashore and operations at sea," said Capt. Alexis Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. "Through 23 years of operating together, CARAT exercises allow us to incorporate new training topics and sea-based operations each year, furthering our interoperability and joint capabilities."

At sea, for the first time during a CARAT exercise, one of Coronado's embarked MQ-8B Firescout unmanned helicopters conducted a shoreline flight, testing the range and sensitivity of the RTN's coastal defense radar system. Additionally, a rigid-hull inflatable boat simulated a fast-attack craft, which triggered the RTN ships HTMS Naresuan (FFG 421) and HTMS Sukhothai (FFS 442) to initiate self-defense measures.

"Coronado Sailors enjoyed a complex and rewarding sea phase during CARAT Thailand," said Cmdr. Doug Meagher, commanding officer, USS Coronado. "A wide range of maritime events allowed us to improve our interoperability with the talented professionals of the Royal Thai Navy."

This year's sea phase also included an air defense exercise, division tactics, communications exercises, a gunnery exercise, cross-deck flight operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, a photo exercise, and mine warfare operations.

Several new training events were added to this year's shore phase, including a Basic Maritime Analysis Course. Designed to increase analytic skills that support and strengthen maritime domain awareness, 26 officers representing the six agencies within the Royal Thai Maritime Engagements Coordinating Center (MECC) attended the five-day training, which culminated in a practical scenario-based exercise.

"The maritime domain is critical to the security, safety, economy, and environment of a country," said course instructor Lt. David Andre. "Effectively managing that domain requires the ability to collect, process, and analyze information from a variety of sources, and the training this week emphasized that."

Shore phase events in 2017 included engineering and damage control training; legal symposia; visit, board search and seizure training; diving operations and salvage training; mine warfare training; and anti-submarine warfare training. Sailors from Coronado also partnered with 7th Fleet's rock band, "Orient Express," for community relations activities at four schools and a child development center in Sattahip.

Future CARAT exercises will continue to feature complex and relevant naval training and security engagements. 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 involved in CARAT Thailand 2017 included staff from Commander, Task Force 73 and Commander, Destroyer Squadron 7, USS Coronado (LCS 4), USNS Millinocket (T-EPF-3), a P-3C Orion, Marines from 3rd Marine Division based in Okinawa, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1 detachment 3, Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 7, and the 7th Fleet rock band "Orient Express."

As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of maritime exercises and engagements, such as Pacific Partnership, the bilateral CARAT series, the Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) with Vietnam, and the multi-lateral Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.