GULF OF THAILAND - The U.S. and Royal Thai navies conducted maritime training during the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, Sept. 6-10.
Taking place virtually and in the Gulf of Thailand, the contactless exercise featured cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of U.S. and Thailand to work together towards the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.
“The 27th iteration of CARAT Thailand represents the longstanding partnership and alliance between the people of Thailand, the United States, and like-minded allies and partners,” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. “While this exercise was contactless with the Royal Thai Navy, the opportunity to sail our ships and operate aircraft together as a unified force was impactful and developed mutual trust and further operational capability of both our nations.”
The countries demonstrated their ability to work together through numerous events including divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers; maritime domain awareness (MDA) tracking exercise with the P-8 aimed at increasing both navies’ ability to track and pursue targets beyond visual range through the coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircraft; helicopter cross deck landings; and search and rescue exercises.
The virtual subject matter expert exchanges featured a variety of joint training opportunities, to include submarine search and rescue, diving operations, replenishment at sea best practices, Women Peace & Security symposium, MDA, anti-submarine warfare, diving operations, and maritime patrol aircraft integrated operations.
For the first time, intergovernmental organization personnel from the European Union’s Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (EU-CRIMARIO) initiative provided subject matter expertise. EU-CRIMARIO hosted a virtual expert exchange on boarding operations in the high seas and a short brief on MDA. The inclusion of non-uniformed organizations in the CARAT series aids in understanding of the operational environment and U.S. 7th Fleet desires to continue this approach in future iterations.
The at-sea phase took place in territorial and international waters near Sattahip and Ko Samui, where USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72 joined with ships and aircraft from Thailand for allied training, focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships. Royal Thai Navy ships at-sea included the Naresuan-class frigates HTMS Naresuan (FFG 421), HTMS Taksin (FFG 422) and HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej (FFG 471).
“The COVID 19 pandemic made 2021 a challenging year because of the health restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus,” said Capt. Anurak P, chief of staff, Frigate Squadron 2, Royal Thai Navy during a virtual ceremony. “Despite the impedances, we still manage to successfully finish the plan which shows the hard work and professionalism we devoted for this exercise.”
U.S. personnel participating in CARAT Thailand include staff from CTF 72, CTF 73, CTF 74, CTF 76, Commander, DESRON 7, U.S. 7th Fleet, and Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) Thailand.
Beginning in 1995, CARAT builds upon other engagements in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. Each CARAT exercise features professional symposia and a robust at-sea phase that incorporates complex evolutions that increase combined operations. Both feature a broad range of naval competencies ranging from explosive ordnance disposal and live-fire gunnery exercises to search and rescue and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
As the U.S. Navy’s destroyer squadron forward-deployed in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, ESG 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
Part of CTF 76/Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, Green Bay is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan. CTF 76 is assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet and operates in support of security and stability in the region, and work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.