Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The United States and Royal Thai navies have conducted an annual maritime training exercise to strengthen their Indo-Pacific region work.
"The COVID-19 pandemic made 2021 a challenging year because of the health restrictions imposed to control the spread of the virus," Capt. Anurak P, chief of staff for Frigate Squadron 2 of the Royal Thai Navy, said during a virtual ceremony.
"Despite the impedances, we still manage to successfully finish the plan which shows the hard work and professionalism we devoted for this exercise," Anurak said.
The exercise demonstrated the U.S. and Thailand navies' ability to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment, Destroyer Squadron, or DESRON, 7 Lt. Commander Lauren Chatmas said in a U.S. Pacific Fleet statement.
"The 27th iteration of CARAT Thailand represents the longstanding partnership and alliance between the people of Thailand, the United States and like-minded allies and partners," added Capt. Tom Ogden, DESRON 7 commander in the statement.
"While this exercise was contactless with the Royal Thai Navy, the opportunity to sail our ships and operate aircraft together as a unified force was impactful and developed mutual trust and further operational capability of both our nations."
The exercise included division tactics to enhance communication in complex maneuvers as ships sail together, a maritime domain awareness, or MDA, tracking exercise with P-8A Poseidon military patrol aircraft and surface ships, helicopter cross deck landings, and search and rescue exercises.
A virtual expert exchange featured job training opportunities, such as submarine search and rescue, diving operations, a Women Peace and Security symposium, MDA, anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft integrated operations.
The at-sea phase of the exercise occurred in territorial and international waters near Sattahip and Ko Samui, where USS Green Bay and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft joined with Thailand ships and aircraft for allied training.
The Royal Thai Navy ships included the Naresuan-class frigates HTMS Naresuan, HTMS Taksin, and HTMS Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In the virtual subject matter expert exchange, the intergovernmental personnel from the European Union's Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific initiative provided subject matter expertise for the first time.
The EU CRIMARIO exchange included a short brief on MDA and an exchange on boarding operations in the high seas.
The CARAT exercise began in 1995 and builds upon other engagements in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region with each annual exercise including professional symposium and at-sea phase to strengthen combined operations, officials said.