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SOUTH CHINA SEA - U.S. military and Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) are partnering in the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise, virtually and in the South China Sea beginning Nov. 15.
Participants in the five-day engagement include U.S. Navy assets Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) with embarked MH-60S from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft as well as Sailors from Special Operations Command Pacific, Naval Special Warfare command, Special Boat Team and U.S. Coast Guard. The exercise focuses on the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of U.S. and Brunei to work together towards the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.
“As the 27th iteration of the CARAT exercise series, 2021 underscores the longstanding role of CARAT to address shared maritime security interests amongst partner navies,” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.
The virtual subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) events will feature a variety of joint training opportunities, to include vessel interdiction and boarding training, riverine security training, replenishment at sea (RAS) best practices, Women Peace & Security symposium, maritime domain awareness (MDA), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and anti-terrorism force protection, among other topics.
The at-sea phase will take place in the South China Sea with ships and aircraft from both partner militaries, with events designed to enhance interoperability between the two militaries. During the sea-phase of the exercise, both countries will demonstrate their ability to work together through numerous events including divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers, a tracking exercise aimed at increasing both navies’ ability to track and pursue targets through the coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircrafts, and search and rescue exercises.
RBAF Joint Forces Headquarters Chief of Staff, Col. Saifulrizal bin Abdul Latif, highlighted the importance of continued partnership between the two countries.
“The world as we know it is full of unknowns, and the region we are in is no exception,” said Abdul Latif. “With the continued spirit of cooperation between us, we strongly believe that it will improve our ability to collaborate in response to any traditional and non-traditional security challenges. Understanding the complexity of the current security outlook, men and women of the armed forces need to be adaptable with changes.”
During the opening ceremony, Ogden emphasized that the foundation of U.S.-Brunei cooperation and training rests in friendships made during time the two nations spend together.
“We value our long-lasting relationship with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and know that it is strengthened by routine participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises focused on shared security priorities,” said Ogden. “When we work together, we learn more about each other’s capabilities, build trust between operators and this leads to order and stability in the region.”
After 27 years of annual training events between the armed forces, CARAT Brunei remains a model for cooperation that has evolved in complexity and enables both navies to refine operations and tactics in response to both traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges. It symbolizes the longstanding U.S.-Brunei maritime partnership. CARAT expands bilateral and multilateral exercises; ensures maritime security, stability, and prosperity; and highlights the U.S.’s commitment to the region and to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
U.S. assets participating in CARAT Brunei include USS Jackson (LCS 6) and embarked MH-60S from HSC 23, staff from U.S. 7th Fleet, Commander Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 76, DESRON 7, Special Operations Command Pacific, Special Reconnaissance Team One, Special Boat Team 22, U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area, U.S. Embassy Brunei, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as ESG 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
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.