BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei and the United States kicked off a series of annual military drills Tuesday aimed at improving cooperation to address regional security threats.

The 25th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) is an annual exercise between the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), US Navy and US Marine Corps designed to enhance the interoperability and capabilities of both armed forces.

In a press conference held at the Muara Naval Base today, RBAF Joint Force Commander Brigadier General (U) Dato Seri Pahlawan Mohammad Sharif Dato Paduka Hj Ibrahim said maritime security and counter-terrorism are the two key areas of mutual concern.

“Within the region, not a single country within ASEAN would deny that counter-terrorism is of the highest priority.

“The maritime domain has been used for the movement and transport of potential aggressors and extremists that come to our region, so the better we can monitor the maritime domain, the better we can share that information with [our partners] within the region,” he said.

RBAF Joint Force Commander Brigadier General Dato Mohd Sharif (L) and US Navy Task Force 73 Commander Rear Admiral Murray ay Joe “JT” Tynch (R) speak to media at the Muara Naval Base on Oct 22, 2019. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

The commander said Brunei can better prepare and develop its procedures by learning from the US Navy.

“The level of information sharing and the openness makes the region that much more secure,” he added.

The exercise, which will end on October 31, will involve both onshore and at-sea training. The assets deployed include the US Navy’s USS Harpers Ferry, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The RBAF did not disclose which of its assets would be used during the eight-day exercise.

CARAT is a bilateral exercise series between the United States Navy and the armed forces of nine partner nations, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

Brunei has been a CARAT partner since 1995.

Brigadier General Dato Mohd Sharif said the growth of the CARAT exercise goes beyond military-to- military engagement.

“As we plan for future CARAT exercises, we will be seeing greater integration of government departments as well as higher educational institutions,” he said.

In addition to the RBAF, this time round CARAT will involve several other government agencies from Brunei, including the Judge Advocate General’s Office, Royal Brunei Police Force, Maritime Port Authority Brunei Darussalam, Fisheries Department, Narcotics Control Bureau, Attorney General’s Chambers, Emergency Medical Ambulance Services, and Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

US Task Force 73 Commander Rear Admiral Murray Joe “JT” Tynch said, “The planning and execution that we do at these events allow us to test the interoperability of our planning and equipment, so that we can communicate and work together.

“It is always better to practise in calm to respond more effectively in crisis when required, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he added.