The fourth phase of the 13th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series began July 13 in an exercise that will include an estimated 1,500 military personnel, 13 ships, a submarine and the newly-commissioned Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) frigate RSS Formidable (68).
Members representing the combined armed services of both nations, dignitaries and local and national media gathered for the exercise's official kick off at the RSN’s Fleet Command Headquarters at Changi Naval Base.
This year’s CARAT will maintain the tradition of previous CARATs with the primary focus on training that will enhance interoperability and professional cooperation between the armed forces of the United States and other participating nations.
“It’s a great pleasure to work alongside our Singaporean partners once again,” said Commander Task Force 73 Rear Adm. William R. Burke, executive agent of the CARAT exercise series. “Our nations are bound together by dependence on the seas and in our need for security of the vast common area they represent – like in a free market where actions made for the purpose of individual gain serve the overall good of the marketplace and nation.”
RSN’s Fleet Commander, Rear Adm. K.H. Tan, echoed Burke’s sentiment saying that CARAT provides the critical continuity necessary to take the exercise to newer and greater heights every year along with reaffirming the partnership the two nations share.
“Our professional cooperation and mutual understanding has deepened over the years, and our two navies are engaged in many other bilateral and multinational exercises and interactions together,” Tan said. “We have our predecessors in previous CARATs to thank for the high level of interoperability our two forces currently enjoy, and I believe that CARAT will continue to be a highlight in our annual exercise calendar for its depth and breadth of professional richness.”
CARAT Singapore will feature a full-range of activities that involve air, land and sea operations, including maritime interdiction and surveillance; visit, board, search and seizure operations; surface gunnery, force protection, and diving and salvage operations. The Combined Enterprise Network Regional Information Exchange System will provide the vital ship-to-ship communication link in Web and text-based formats for the exercise.
These well-established and very necessary elements of the exercise will get an added boost from some very impressive new military hardware, thanks to the RSN.
“This year we also have new training opportunities with the addition of tactical fighters and the newest RSN warship
, the stealth frigate Formidable,” Burke said. “Utilizing the capabilities of these new platforms, we will develop combat air patrol, air support operations, and anti-air warfare skills. We stand to learn a great deal from each other during this combined training.”
In another first, the SH-60B “Seahawk” anti-submarine warfare helicopter will perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises on the deck of Formidable. This cooperation is a demonstration of the high level of interoperability between the two nations.
“Navies are the right service for furthering our idea of cooperation,” Burke said. “Navies shape the environment through forward presence; navies respond to crises and operate with others without imposing on another nation’s sovereign territory. It is through sustained naval engagement with our regional partners that we begin to affect the maritime domain.”
Maritime security strategy is at the top of the list of priorities for both navies as seaborne threats such as piracy, drug smuggling, and human trafficking have become everyday occurrences in many nations that depend on the sea for trade.
“CARAT Singapore has become the model maritime exercise for both our navies, designed to prepare our forces to face today’s maritime threats,” Burke said. “These threats are very real and many cross international borders, requiring like-minded maritime forces to cooperate and share real-time information to keep the region’s waterways safe.”
The staple for every CARAT phase is the tremendous humanitarian effort to the community. Joint community relations projects for this phase include a beach clean-up on Singapore’s east coast, a children’s concert with the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet Band, a visit to a home for disabled adults, and a waterway clean-up at the Kallang Riverside Park. A sports day at the Changi Sports Complex will allow U.S. Navy Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen a chance to compete with their RSN counterparts in various sporting events.
“Partnerships give us the right combination of experience and cooperation to impact the maritime domain,” Burke said. “Partnerships also allow us to bring complementary forces to bear against a challenge.”
CARAT is a sequential series of bilateral military exercises the U.S. Navy performs annually with the armed forces of several Southeast Asian nations. Following Singapore, the exercise moves to Brunei for the finale.
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jessica M. Bailey, Commander Task Force 73 Public Affairs