More than 1,400 U.S. servicemembers arrived in Singapore this week to launch the 10th annual exercise CARAT, or Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, a series of training missions conducted by the Navy with five Southeast Asian countries.

During the three-month session, U.S. and foreign servicemembers will practice firing missiles, defending ports and searching vessels, while serving in community-relations projects.

CARAT allows U.S. forces to practice working with other countries and helps those nations build their naval combat and counterterrorism skills.

The other countries involved in the training — Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines — border the world’s busiest shipping channels, the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca. The region has been identified by the State Department as a breeding ground of terrorist activity.

In Singapore this week, the two navies will use a new communications system to send messages between ships and also launch a combined command-and-control system aboard a vessel. They’ll share operational information as well.

“Planning staff from both navies will share operational tactical information in a seamless manner for the first time,” Col. James Soon, the Republic of Singapore navy fleet commander, said in a statement.

After the Singapore stint, U.S. forces will spend between four days and two weeks in each country.

CARAT was created 10 years ago to consolidate several regional training exercises. It evolved to include force-protection and anti-terrorism operations at sea and in port, said Navy Lt. Chuck Bell, a spokesman for Logistics Group Western Pacific, the command responsible for the exercise.

The exercise will include at-sea gun and missile shoots, maneuvering and interception, diving and salvage operations, search and seizure, damage-control training, air-to-air fighter scenarios and seminars on maritime law and rules of engagement.

U.S. servicemembers will conduct several projects in the participating countries such as working on a high school in the Philippines, maintenance and repairs at a nongovernmental agency in Malaysia, painting at several locations and medical and other civil-affairs assistance.

In the past, CARAT included land-based training with U.S. Marines and a landing force exercise. However, because of reduced force levels in Asia from the war on terror, Marines will not participate and the exercise will focus on naval missions, Bell said.

U.S. forces participating this year include: Navy ships the USS Fort McHenry, from Sasebo, Japan; the guided-missile destroyers USS Russell from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and USS McCampbell from San Diego; the Seattle-based Coast Guard cutter Mellon; and other assets such as the rescue and salvage ship USS Salvor; F/A-18s from Strike Fighter Squadron 195 at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, Japan; and Mobile Mine Assembly Unit 10 from Okinawa.

Guided-missile destroyers are participating for the first time this year, Bell said, to give training partners experience with destroyer capabilities such as the Aegis Combat Training System.

“The [destroyers] are a CARAT first,” Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, the Logistics Group Western Pacific commander and executive agent for CARAT, said in a statement, “and their participation symbolizes the U.S. Navy’s commitment to this exercise, Singapore and this region of the world.”

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