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The U.S. and Singaporean navies launched the first phase of the massive annual exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training this week at Changi Naval Base, Singapore.

CARAT, conducted throughout the summer with six Asian nations, helps U.S. forces practice command and control and operations with other countries. The focus this year will be on maritime security including combating seaborne terrorism and transnational crimes at sea, according to a Navy press release.

In Singapore, where the exercise has been held for the past 11 years, forces will practice at-sea maneuvering; search and seizure; diving and salvage; and command, control and communications. The two nations also will conduct a missile operation in which they’ll fire Barak missiles at flying drones posing as enemy aircraft, the Navy reported.

“Today each of you are in the middle of a truly historical period for our navies’ and the worldwide battle against transnational maritime threats and piracy,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, commander of Logistics Group Western Pacific, at the exercise opening ceremony Tuesday in Singapore, according to the Navy.

“Many of the skills and technologies we exercise in CARAT can be directly applied to the ongoing regional maritime security efforts,” he added.

The United States this year is scheduled to conduct a phase of CARAT in Indonesia for the first time since 2002, a result of the cooperation developed after the U.S. mission to help Indonesia after tsunamis devastated the nation, Navy leaders have said.

The exercise also is scheduled to include phases in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines.

About 1,200 U.S. servicemembers from the Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Coast Guard are expected to participate, including two Sasebo-based ships, the USS Fort McHenry and rescue and salvage ship USS Safeguard.

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