The US Navy kicked off its 25th annual military exercise, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (CARAT), in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on Friday. Commander, Task Force 73, a U.S. Navy task force of the United States Seventh Fleet, announced the beginning of the 25th annual CARAT exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of partner nations on April 19.
CARAT, the U.S. Navy’s oldest and longest continually-running regional exercise in South Asia and Southeast Asia, strengthens partnerships between regional navies and enhances maritime security cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific. The CARAT series begins at sea in the southern region of Sri Lanka, where U.S. Sailors and Marines join the Sri Lanka Armed Forces to conduct partnered training focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships, along with sharing best practices.
The week-long exercise at Hamantota port will offer Sailors and Marines a chance to conduct underwater diving sessions, combat lifesaving training and practice small boat maneuvers. Navy Seabees will also be working with the Sri Lankan Navy civil engineering branch to renovate an elementary school in the nearby area.
Sri Lankan Sailors will have the chance to serve aboard Navy vessels for hands-on learning during the at-sea phase of the exercise to increase interoperability between the two countries. U.S. assets participating include the Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 90), Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) and a P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol craft.
“Twenty-five years of CARAT speaks for the enduring partnerships in this region,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. “CARAT represents a quarter century of partners and allies in the region bringing their enthusiasm, knowledge, and perspectives to this exercise. CARAT also represents our future continuing to work together and strengthening our relationships.”
Each CARAT exercise features a shore phase with professional symposia and a robust at-sea phase that incorporates complex evolutions that increase combined operations. Both feature a broad range of naval competencies ranging from explosive ordnance disposal and live-fire gunnery exercises to search and rescue and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. CARAT also builds personal relationships through professional exchanges, sports and social events, community service projects and band concerts.
The CARAT exercise began in 1995 and remains a model of cooperation that has evolved in complexity and enables partner navies to refine operations and tactics in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges. Its continuing relevance for a quarter century speaks to the high quality of training and the enduring value of maritime cooperation among allies and partners in South and Southeast Asia.
CARAT builds upon other engagements in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, including Pacific Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission, Maritime Training Activity Malaysia, Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama (Philippines), Pacific Griffin with Singapore and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), which involves nearly a dozen partner nations. These engagements bring naval forces together routinely based on shared values and maritime security interests.
As U.S. 7th Fleet’s executive agent for theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander, Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning, organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and other engagements in the region.