SULU SEA (June 5, 2016) – The forward-deployed Whidbey Island Class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) cruises the Sulu Sea while conducting a formation exercise with USS Stethem (DDG 63) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) in support of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training. CARAT is a series of annual, bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations to include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste. The Ashland is assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Carl King Jr/. Released)
An annual bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy (PN) and the United States Navy (USN) starts today, June 6 until June 10, 2016, in various areas of Olongapo City, Palawan and in the vicinity of Luzon and Sulu Sea.
Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2016 aims to conduct combined naval operations in order to enhance interoperability between the PN and USN forces.
Furthermore, it will strengthen both navies’ combined capabilities in surface and modern naval warfare, amphibious operations, and special operations; enhance situational awareness and information sharing, and will promote partnership and goodwill.
“CARAT strengthens the strong and enduring relationships between the U.S. and Philippine navies,” said Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph S. Mercado AFP, commander, Philippine Fleet. “We’re looking forward to working along-side our U.S. Navy partners during CARAT 2016,” he added.
The exercise will involve at-sea and in-port events designed for subject matter exchange, individual and unit training, and engagement with the local community.
PN and USN will exchange best practices and share information during multiple professional exchanges and seminars ashore. They will also conduct civic action projects, community service events and joint band concerts to allow our forces to interact with the local community.
In-port activities will take place in different areas of Olongapo City and Zambales while at sea events will be in the waters and airspace of the Sulu and Luzon Sea.
“CARAT enables us to develop strong relationships with our Philippine Navy and Marine partners,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, Commander, Task Force 73. “Through persistent presence and relationships, we continue to make steady progress in increasing the complexity of our training and enhancing cooperation between our navies.”
Participating forces from the PN include the Minesweeper Frigate BRP Rizal (PS74), the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), a Landing Craft Heavy vessel, an AW109 helicopter, an Islander aircraft, an EOD Team, a Diving Team, one mobile Construction Team, a Marine Company and the Seabees Combo.
Meanwhile, U.S. participating units and platforms include the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), the landing dock ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), and the diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52), along with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, Navy expeditionary forces, Marines assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force – 3rd Marine Division, a platoon from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, staff from Commander, Task Force 73 (CTF 73) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, and the 7th Fleet Band Orient Express.
CARAT helps our navies respond efficiently and effectively to natural and manmade disasters, which occur frequently in this region and are often beyond the resources of any single nation.