U.S., Singapore militaries join for amphibious training during CARAT exercise
By Lt. Lauren Chatmas, DESRON 7
SINGAPORE – U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Republic of Singapore Navy partnered in the 26th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercise, in international water of the South China Sea and on Changi Naval Base, Singapore, Dec. 9-14.
With over a half century of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Singapore, the two countries continue to work closely together to maintain a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and secure Indo-Pacific region. CARAT Singapore 2020 underscores a shared commitment toward regional maritime security and stability.
During the virtual commander’s conference, U.S. and Singapore leaders emphasized the success of this year’s CARAT, focusing on the diverse training value of integrating small amphibious landing crafts in addition to the traditional large deck operations. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, addressed the mutual benefit and training opportunities of exercises like CARAT Singapore.
“The 26th anniversary of CARAT Singapore symbolizes the strong and enduring U.S.-Singapore partnership that has benefitted both of our navies for more than a quarter century,” said Kacher. “As someone who has lived, worked and sailed alongside our Singaporean partners during multiple CARAT exercises, I believe that practicing bilateral maritime operations in the South China Sea emphasizes our interoperability, cooperation, and a shared interest in maintaining regional security and stability in a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
During the closing ceremony, Republic of Singapore Navy’s Commander Third Flotilla, Col. Ang Jeng Kai, commented on the successful completion of the exercise, and how CARAT 2020 is an extension of the stronger understanding the U.S. and Singapore navies have built over the years.
“I am glad that we are still able to conduct exercises together, even though the planning for Exercise CARAT 2020 had to be done virtually,” said Ang. “The successful conduct of Exercise CARAT 2020, which included drills that required close coordination between the ships, also bears testament to the firm professional rapport we have established.”
Using both integrated technology and in-person meetings on Changi Naval Base, a roundtable featuring amphibious interoperability included subject matter experts exchanging capabilities and organizational structure of U.S. and Republic of Singapore Navies amphibious operations. The discussion highlighted both exercise and future opportunities for bilateral amphibious training.
Capt. Ann McCann, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, emphasized the U.S.-Singapore bond grows stronger while planning exercises and when the two nations spend time together, both ashore and at sea.
“CARAT Singapore is a perfect example of how we are able to sharpen maritime skills while simultaneously expanding our already deep bond,” said McCann. “Practicing tactics between RSS Endurance and one of our most capable amphibious warships, USS Somerset, will provide a unique training opportunity for both countries.”
The at-sea phase took place in international water of the South China Sea with ships and aircraft from both partner militaries. The San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Somerset (LPD 25) and Singapore Endurance-class landing platform dock RSS Endurance (207) met at sea for a variety of events, to include launching of landing craft air cushions (LCACs) and fast craft utilities (FCUs), respectively. The ships practiced simultaneous launches of their aircraft, U.S. Marine Corps helicopters and a Republic of Singapore Navy drone. Additional events included search and rescue exercise, divisional tactics and maneuvering, communication drills, and a coordinated farewell sail past marking the conclusion of the sea phase.
All events were planned with an emphasis on COVID-19 social distancing and other mitigation measures. Coordination across participants was conducted in person and online, adhering to Singapore Government and Department of Defense regulations. Both nations continued to use integrated technology for content generation and collaboration throughout the exercise.
U.S. assets participating in CARAT Singapore include staff from ESG 7, DESRON 7, USS Somerset (LPD 25), Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 LCACs, and U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper helicopters. Singapore assets include Commander Third Flotilla, RSS Endurance (207), and FCUs.
Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 and DESRON 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements, on behalf of U.S. 7th Fleet, in support of theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia.
U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.