From Kingfisher to CARAT: U.S.-Brunei exercise concludes

31 October 2019

From MC2 Christopher Veloicaza, Task Force 73

The U.S. and Royal Brunei Armed Forces successfully concluded the 25th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise, Oct. 31.

MUARA, Brunei - The U.S. and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) successfully concluded the 25th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise at Muara Naval Base, Oct. 31.

The 25th anniversary of exercise CARAT Brunei symbolizes the longstanding U.S.-Brunei maritime partnership and highlights the United States’ commitment to the region and to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In addition to the RBAF, this year’s iteration of CARAT involved working side-by-side with several government agencies from Brunei, including the Judge Advocate General’s Office, Royal Brunei Police Force, Maritime Port Authority Brunei Darussalam, Fisheries Department, Narcotics Control Bureau, Attorney General’s Chambers and Univsersiti Brunei Darussalam.

U.S. Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Matthew J. Matthews witnessed many of the exercises.

“CARAT collaboration has continued for 25 years, demonstrating the steady and consistent building of relationships between the RBAF and U.S. militaries,” said Matthews. “I was privileged to observe several of the activities this year, from the beach landing and P-8 flights to the joint RBAF-Seventh Fleet band concerts. The growth of activities like the 10-day jungle training and the numerous sea exercises shows how the Brunei-U.S. security partnership is continuing to develop and strengthen.”

Brig. Gen. Dato Mohd Sharif, RBAF joint force commander, said the growth of CARAT goes beyond military-to-military engagement and noted the exercise’s expansion as well as his involvement with CARAT dating back to the first iteration in 1995, when it was formally known as Kingfisher.

Kingfisher, at its inception, was a bilateral exercise confined to U.S. and Brunei naval forces. The scale of the military exercise has evolved and now, under the CARAT program, involves assets from numerous elements of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. CARAT, in its current state, is a testament to the U.S.-Brunei shared commitment, understanding and ability to evolve together in the region.

The sea phase took place in the South China Sea with ships and aircraft from both partner militaries. Participating U.S. Navy assets included the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) and the Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3).

During the sea-phase of the exercise, both countries successfully demonstrated their ability to work together through numerous events including, divisional tactics (DIVTACS) designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers, a photo exercise (PHOTOEX), a tracking exercise (TRACKEX) aimed at increasing both navies’ ability to track and pursue targets through the coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircrafts, visit board search and seizure (VBSS) drills, deck landing qualifications and medical evacuation simulations (DLQ/MEDECAV), gunnery exercises (GUNEX) and bilateral underway replenishment scenarios (RASAP).

Aviation events during the exercise focused on maritime domain awareness (MDA), search and rescue, and interoperability, with participating helicopters from the RBAF and USN, as well as a P-8A Poseidon from Patrol Squadron (VP) 10. Additionally, a bilateral flight of a Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) S-70i Black Hawk was conducted by RBAirF Lt. Col. Muhammad Walee Bin Haji Roslie and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander Task Force 73. The flight marked the second time Tynch piloted an RBAirF Black Hawk helicopter, further strengthening the close partnership between the U.S. and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) and mutual commitment to the CARAT exercise series.

CARAT Brunei 2019 also marks the first time the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter participated in an exercise in the Indo-Pacific. Using its cameras, the aircraft assisted with surveillance during the visit board search and seizure training exchange.

Shore events featured joint training opportunities to include VBSS exchanges, mobile dive and salvage training, jungle warfare training and subject matter expert knowledge exchanges in MDA, aviation, women’s leadership, law, and LCS tours. Additionally, several community outreach events took place throughout the exercise, including a sports day, beach cleaning project, and joint public performances by the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet Band and the Combined RBAF Band.

“Our relationship with Brunei is special, because we’ve been working together with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces for over 50 years, and we share a comprehensive partnership built on trust and a continued commitment to train in various maritime situations,” said Capt. Matthew Jerbi, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. “This bond speaks to the importance that both our navies place on the engagement, and this is a trend that will continue when we exercise our RBAF partners in the future.”

Marines and Sailors from the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) participated in CARAT from Oct. 7-20. More than 500 personnel attached to 11th MEU and USS Harper’s Ferry (LSD 49) focused on small-unit training by conducting urban operations and jungle warfare training at the Penanjong Garrison. The training exercised ARG/MEU’s amphibious capability and allowed U.S. Marines and Sailors to exchange knowledge, skills and information with RBAF to enhance individual and team capacity.

CARAT Brunei reflects the growing partnership between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Brunei Navy to further expand bilateral and multilateral exercises and cooperatively ensure maritime security, stability, and prosperity.

CARAT, the U.S. Navy's oldest and longest continually running regional exercise in South and Southeast Asia, strengthens partnerships between regional navies and enhances maritime security cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific.

CARAT builds upon other engagements in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, Maritime Training Activity Malaysia, Maritime Training Activity Philippines, Pacific Griffin with Singapore and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), which involves nearly a dozen partner nations. These engagements bring like-minded naval forces together routinely based on shared values and maritime security interests.

As U.S. 7th Fleet's executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific/Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements in the region.

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