US and Brunei launch naval exercise

The USS Lassen. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

On November 2, the United States and Brunei began an annual military exercise at Muara Naval Base in the wealthy Southeast Asian state.

The 21st Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Brunei exercise is aiming to address shared naval security priorities, develop skills and enhance cooperation between the two navies.

It is part of a series of bilateral exercises conducted by the US Navy with nine South and Southeast Asian nations: Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste. Brunei was one of the original CARAT partners and has been part of the exercise series since it started in 1995.

The US Navy announced the exercise would end on November 11 and involve more than 500 US military members alongside counterparts from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.

It would feature 10 days of land and sea training to practice maritime security and military medicine, it said.

There would be training at sea in combined operations, naval gunnery, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The US said  Brunei would also include maritime domain awareness training with the Brunei personnel, resupply and tactical manoeuvres at sea between several ships.

It announced that a highlight would be the use of Brunei’s Black Hawk helicopter to make deck landings aboard the USS Lassen, the vessel involved in the recent controversial US operations near China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea.

US Navy MH-60R helicopters would land on the flight deck of Brunei’s Darulehsan.

At the opening of CARAT, Rear Admiral Charles Williams, the commander of Task Force 73, stressed the US would continue to operate in the region’s waters as it had for decades, since a persistent presence was key to tackling common challenges.

“The United States as a maritime nation and a Pacific nation has been present in the region for decades…This is our third decade doing CARAT with Brunei. So it’s that persistent presence that helps us address those threats,” Williams said, according to The Brunei Times.

“Our nations share a strong commitment to security cooperation that contributes to the stability and peace of the region. We continue to benefit from our mature maritime partnership that allows us to increase the complexity of our training each year and enhance interoperability between our forces.”

CARAT is also tailored to counter piracy, smuggling, preparing maritime interception operations and port security.

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