SINGAPORE (NNS) -- The 12th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series got off to a ceremonial start May 30 at Singapore's Changi Naval Base auditorium, where some 250 U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore navy (RSN) officers and sailors sat side by side for the opening ceremony.
CARAT is a sequential series of bilateral exercises held annually throughout Southeast Asia. The U.S. Task group arrived in Singapore May 29 for the first leg of the six-phase exercise, which also includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
The overarching goals of CARAT are the enhancement of regional cooperation, promotion of understanding between participating military forces and the continued development of their operational readiness.
"As we experience more and more often, the ability of various naval forces to work together efficiently is not merely a nicety, but a real necessity," Rear Adm. William R. Burke, commander, Task Force 73 and CARAT's executive agent said during opening remarks.
The real-world training value of CARAT is high and offers unique training opportunities in diverse environments.
"The RSN has always sought to engage and work closely with regional and international navies, to ensure that the waters around us remain safe and secure for international commerce and transportation," RSN's Fleet Commander, Col. Tan Kai Hoe told the packed auditorium during his opening remarks. "This need to work together is all the more apparent in the current security climate. We strongly believe that ensuring maritime security in the region is a joint effort by all stakeholders, and we appreciate that the U.S.' continued engagement in this region contributes significantly towards its security."
The United States and Singapore share many strategic perspectives, Burke said, while noting that past CARAT exercises have played a significant role in developing the cohesiveness the two navies share today.
To continue building on the relationship, the officers and sailors of both navies will engage in an assortment of sea, air and land-based events. A twin-tow target shoot will be incorporated into the at-sea phase, a CARAT first.
Another premier event includes combined USN and RSN boardings both at sea and pierside that will offer visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams a chance to share tactics and techniques.
The Commander of the U.S. Task Group, Capt. Al Collins, and his RSN counterpart, Col. Joseph Leong, will command the combined task group from aboard the tank landing ship RSS Endeavour during the underway phase of the exercise.
The tactical leaders of the exercise will communicate with the ships in the task group via the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), which allows secure, real-time chat and email capability. The Singaporean ACCESS data-link system, which will be introduced aboard all participating ships this year, will add the ability to share a common tactical picture at sea.
Dive operations, tactical freeplays and base defense exercises are also part of the wide spectrum of events that help build relationships, Tan said.
Singaporean and U.S. Navy sailors will also battle simulated shipboard flooding and fires as they share damage control techniques at the Changi Naval Base damage control trainer.
The two-week exercise also includes a variety of anti-terrorism, medical and legal symposia where participants of various ranks share ideas.
"Relationships like the one between the U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy don't just come about overnight," Burke said. "It takes a consistent level of engagement over an extended period of time, from the highest levels of leadership all the way down to the deckplates to get to where we are."
The two navies will also take time to conduct a variety of community service projects throughout the two-week exercise.
The U.S. CARAT task group, under the leadership of Collins, who is commander of Destroyer Squadron 1, is made up of the dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46), guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70), guided-missile frigate USS Crommelin (FFG 37), Coast Guard high endurance cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720), and the rescue and salvage ship USS Salvor (ARS 52).
Other elements, including P-3C Orion and SH-60 Seahawk aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 46 and Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 37; Mobile Security Squadron 7; the Naval Criminal Investigative Service; and a U.S. Coast Guard Training team, will also take part in CARAT.
Collins is embarked aboard Tortuga, which operates from Sasebo, Japan, as part of the 7th Fleet's Forward Deployed Naval Forces. Collins' staff is based in San Diego. Hopper, Crommelin and Salvor are homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Sherman is homeported in Alameda, Calif.
A number of RSN ships, including Endurance and Endeavour, which returned to Singapore May 27 following a three-month deployment to the Persian Gulf assisting with multinational reconstruction efforts, will also take part in CARAT Singapore.
For more on CARAT, visit www.clwp.navy.mil/carat2006.
For more news from around the fleet, visit www.navy.mil.