Lt. j.g. Ben Ralen and Lt. j.g. Akmal Japin search for surface contacts on the bridge of USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) during CARAT tactical maneuvering drills. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Greg Johnson)

MUARA, Brunei - The U.S. and Royal Brunei navies conducted their 24th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise, Nov. 12-16.

The sea phase took place in the South China Sea with ships and aircraft from both partner navies including the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. Evolutions at-sea included a tracking exercise (TRACKEX) aimed at increasing both navies’ ability to together track and pursue targets through the coordinated deployment of surface ships and maritime patrol aircraft, anti-air warfare (AAW) exercise to increase proficiency in missile defense, and division tactics (DIVTACS) designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers.

“The U.S. Navy remains forward and engaged with regional partners by developing mutual capabilities to address shared maritime security priorities and concerns,” said Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. “Our combined ability to effectively operate out at sea in any maritime environment demonstrates our rapidly growing partnership and unwavering commitment to ensuring freedom of navigation and respect for international law.”

With the U.S.-Brunei relationship entering its fourth decade, the CARAT exercise reflects the growing relationship between both partner navies to further expand bilateral and multilateral exercises in cooperatively ensuring maritime security, stability and prosperity.

“Partnerships matter and persistent partnerships matter even more,” said Capt. Ann McCann, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. “As one of the original CARAT partners, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces have been part of CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995, and we remain committed to further strengthening this vital partnership through more frequent and sophisticated engagements.”

Along with the annually-held CARAT exercise, the U.S. and Royal Brunei navies continue to participate in a growing number of bilateral and multilateral maritime exercises including this year’s 17th annual Southeast Asia Cooperation Training (SEACAT) and 26th biennial Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise. In August, the U.S. and Brunei Armed Forces held their first-ever army exercise in an effort to expand military engagements between both partner nations.

“The expeditionary fast transport ship, USNS Fall River, enhances our ability to build and strengthen maritime partnerships by being able to train and operate with regional navies including the Royal Brunei Navy and to enter previously inaccessible, shallow-water foreign ports,” said said Lt. j.g. Tabitha McAdams, U.S. lead planner of CARAT Brunei.

In a first during the exercise, Tynch had an opportunity to fly a Royal Brunei Air Force S-70i Black Hawk. “As an H-60 pilot myself, it was an incredible experience flying over Brunei while sharing the cockpit with a fellow pilot from the Royal Brunei Air Force," he said. "Our ability to sit shoulder-to-shoulder and trust each other, while flying an airframe used by both our countries, absolutely demonstrates the partnership and interoperability that makes CARAT such a tremendous event.”

Maritime exercises conducted between both partner navies are designed to address the full spectrum of maritime operations with CARAT focusing on maritime security operations and SEACAT on information sharing and maritime domain awareness.

This year marks the 24th anniversary of the CARAT exercise series with bilateral engagements between a dozen ally and partner nations including Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.

USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4), right, submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), left, and the Royal Brunei Navy patrol vessels KDB Darulaman (OPV 08) and KDB Berkat (ISV 18) sail in formation during CARAT Brunei. (Royal Brunei Navy photo)

Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, left, poses for a photo with Maj. Walee "Vader" Roslie after the two piloted a Royal Brunei Air Force S-70i Black Hawk helicopter during CARAT Brunei. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Greg Johnson)

U.S. and Royal Brunei Navy sailors listen to a presentation about the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS) during a knowledge exchange event as part of CARAT. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Greg Johnson)

U.S. Sailors and members of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces posed for a group photo after a women's leadership symposium as part of CARAT Brunei. (U.S. Navy photo)

Capt. Yusuf Masron, Royal Brunei Navy acting joint force commander, speaks to exercise participants and media during the opening ceremony for CARAT Brunei, Nov. 12. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Greg Johnson)