CARAT 2016 gets underway in Malaysia

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have kicked off the Malaysia phase of the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series between the U.S. and the armed forces of nine ASEAN member-countries.

CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

CARAT Malaysia will take place on the ground in Sandakan and in the waters and airspace of the Sulu Sea. The Malaysian Armed Forces have participated in CARAT since the exercise series began in 1995 and this year’s exercise reflects more than two decades of increasingly complex training ashore, at sea and in the air.

The harbor phase of the exercise will feature an amphibious landing, as well as explosive ordnance training, medical and dental capabilities seminars and a civil engineering project. At sea, flight operations, coordinated gunnery drills and surface warfare maneuvers will highlight an exercise that continues the trend of increasing complexity each year.

U.S. ships and units participating in CARAT Malaysia include the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, the expeditionary transfer dock USNS Montford Point, a P-3C Orion and Marines from 3rd Marine Division.

Following CARAT Malaysia, additional bilateral phases of CARAT will occur from June through November 2016 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

“We’ve been working very closely with the Malaysian Armed Forces for 22 years as part of CARAT,” said Capt. H.B. Le, commodore Destroyer Squadron 7. “Over that time we’ve developed a familiarity with each other’s capabilities that allows us to push the envelope with the planning and execution of each exercise, something that is important in such a diverse maritime environment.”

The U.S. Navy said CARAT 2016 would be the most complex series to date.