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SINGAPORE - The U.S. Navy and maritime forces from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) successfully completed the first ASEAN-U.S. Maritime Exercise (AUMX), Sept. 6.
The task force headquarters, located aboard the Royal Thai Navy vessel HTMS Krabi (OPV 551), featured a multinational staff and included representatives from each ASEAN member state and the United States. Each ASEAN member state was also represented at an ashore support element in Singapore.
AUMX promotes shared commitments to maritime partnerships, security and stability in Southeast Asia. Participating nations include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.
Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander of Task Force 73, who oversees the U.S. Navy’s security cooperation in Southeast Asia, said that AUMX was not a symbolic event, and built capacity, as well as confidence.
"I fully believe we are stronger when we sail together,” said Tynch. "The ASEAN-U.S. exercise is a significant event and a positive step toward building a more networked region. And that’s the key for maintaining stability and security in the maritime domain.”
Throughout the exercise, ASEAN member states and U.S. forces operated together under a combined task force structure, training for realistic scenarios designed to reinforce interoperability in areas such as visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), maritime domain awareness, division tactics and maritime asset tracking.
Commercial vessels, contracted by the United States, served as simulated target vessels during the VBSS portion of the exercise, which focused on countering relevant maritime threats. Teams from multiple countries worked together to board and seize the ships under a variety of realistic scenarios.
"AUMX is the perfect example of the benefits of training and working together at-sea during realistic scenarios " said Capt. Matt Jerbi, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 and deputy commander of the AUMX Task Force. “AUMX was highly successful in strengthening multilateral proficiency, learning from each other and building the foundation to work together in the future."
Co-led by the U.S. and Royal Thai navies, AUMX included pre-sail activities in Thailand, Singapore and Brunei, followed by a sea phase in international waters in Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea.
"The exercise is a useful platform for the navies of ASEAN member states to engage with the United States Navy to strengthen practical cooperation, enhance understanding and build confidence,” said Republic of Singapore Navy Colonel Lim Yu Chuan, commander of First Flotilla and commanding officer of 185 Squadron. “By working together to deal with maritime incidents at sea. It is important for navies to cooperate with each other to protect the key maritime trade routes and work towards safer seas for all."
In all, AUMX includes eight warships and four aircraft from seven countries, and more than a thousand personnel representing all ten ASEAN member states and the United States.
“The Navy will be benefited from this because they will be operating with other navies as far as maritime safety and security is concerned,” said Philippine Navy Chief of Naval Staff Rear Adm. Loumer Bernabe “It also promotes exercise of freedom of navigation and overflight and unimpeded commerce.”
U.S. assets included the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), three MH-60 helicopters, a P-8 Poseidon aircraft and staff assigned to DESRON 7 and CTF 73.
AUMX was first proposed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) in 2017 and confirmed during the 12th ADMM in October 2018.
While this was the first exercise of its kind with ASEAN, the U.S. Navy has conducted engagements, exercises and port visits in Southeast Asia for decades. In 2019, the 25th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) bilateral exercise series commenced, along with the 18th Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) multilateral exercise.
The U.S. Navy also participates routinely in ADMM-Plus maritime security exercises, to promote peace and stability throughout the region.