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Singapore, US kick off joint military exercise in South China Sea

The exercises are part of Exercise CARAT, which is in its 20th year and acts as a platform for regional navies work together to address shared maritime security priorities.

SINGAPORE: The naval forces of Singapore and United States will carry out joint exercises in the international waters of the South China Sea as part of this year's Exercise CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training), which begins on Tuesday (July 29).

This year's exercise will involve a total of 1,400 personnel from both countries. They include six ships, a submarine, a naval helicopter and eight aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), as well as three ships, a submarine and four naval helicopters from the US Navy (USN) and the US Marine Corps.

Vice-Admiral Robert Thomas of the USN Seventh Fleet said the joint exercises are in line with America's "rebalancing" of forces in the Asia-Pacific and its commitment to freedom of access on the seas in the region. The USN's warships and aircraft will work together with the RSN and the RSAF during the joint exercise.

Commenting on the tensions in the South China Sea between China and regional countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam, Vice-Admiral Thomas said while the Chinese Navy will likely carry out further operations there, the USN prioritise operational readiness in the region, including offering its resources to aid in humanitarian efforts.

He said he "did not want to speculate" on what would warrant US military intervention in the region.

Exercise CARAT Singapore officially commences on Tuesday and will continue through to August 8. Singapore has partnered with the USN since CARAT began in 1995. Besides Singapore, the other eight navies partnering the USN on CARAT are Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Today marks the start of the five-day shore phase, during which personnel will conduct engineering, aviation, culinary and sports exchanges as well as training before the five-day sea phase, which takes place next week.

"Today, CARAT Singapore features an array of serials spanning all dimensions of maritime warfare, maritime security, force protection and base defence. The CARAT series of exercises is in keeping with this spirit of building friendship and cooperation," said Rear-Adm Timothy Lo, Fleet Commander, RSN.

According to a US navy report on Monday, the USS Wayne E Meyer and USS Halsey will participate in Exercise CARAT Singapore. This year's exercises cover a broad range of naval complexities to include surface gunnery and air defence exercises, search and rescue, shipboard helicopter operations and maritime interdiction.

"The highlight of this year's sea phase will be an anti-submarine warfare exercise involving USN and RSN helicopters, as well as RSN ships, where torpedoes will be launched against an underwater target," the report stated.

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