Exercise between Singapore and US navies in southern reaches of South China Sea within international waters

Two Singapore ships will join aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (pictured), missile-guided destroyer USS Sampson and missile-guided cruiser USS Bunker Hill in the two-day exercise.
Two Singapore ships will join aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (pictured), missile-guided destroyer USS Sampson and missile-guided cruiser USS Bunker Hill in the two-day exercise.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Two Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) warships began a passage exercise (Passex) with United States Navy (USN) vessels in the southern reaches of the South China Sea within international waters on Friday (April 6).

The two RSN ships - Formidable-class frigate RSS Supreme and missile corvette RSS Valiant - will join aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, missile-guided destroyer USS Sampson and missile-guided cruiser USS Bunker Hill in the two-day exercise.

The exercise will include gunnery firing against a killer-tomato target, anti-air defence, manoeuvring and helicopter landings, said the RSN in a Facebook post on Friday.

It added that the training area is where the RSN traditionally conduct exercises, and that the Passex allows the RSN and the USN "to enhance interoperability and benchmark standards against each other".

Passexes are commonly done between navies to strengthen mutual understanding and ties, enhance interoperability, among other aims.

The Singapore navy regularly conducts Passex with visiting navies and has done so in recent years with countries such as India, China and France.

Its most recent Passex was conducted with the Royal Australian Navy when both navies were transiting through the Malacca Straits last month.

The RSN and USN have conducted bilateral exercises, which included Passex, since the 1970s.

In a US Navy statement on Friday, commanding officer of USS Sampson Timothy D. LaBenz said the latest Passex "offered a unique opportunity to further our capabilities to operate with and learn from one another".

"It's an excellent test for our watchstanders to exercise their flexibility as warfighters and to interact with partner navies in a tactical environment," he added, referring to personnel who keep watch on the bridge and over the running machinery.

During the Passex, ships from both navies practised ship-handling procedures, communications drills, and navigating in several close formations.

"This was a unique opportunity to further our capabilities to operate with and learn from one another," said Captain Carlos Sardiello, USS Theodore Roosevelt's commanding officer.

"We are dedicated to ensuring our ability to work with our allies and deal with common concerns such as disaster relief and safety of sea lanes."

The US aircraft carrier, measuring about 330 metres long and home to a crew of about 5,000 navy personnel, made its first port visit to Singapore on Monday.

The carrier was moored at RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base, where it held ship tours and key leader engagements with visitors at the invitation of the US Embassy.

It is part of a carrier strike group that returned to the US Navy's 7th Fleet area of operations in the western Pacific after successfully completing more than four months in the Arabian Gulf and the 5th Fleet area of operations supporting maritime security, theater security cooperation, and mission operations.

The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group will continue maritime security patrols, presence operations, and training with partners and allies throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

"The strike group is extremely proficient and performing at an exceptional level," said its commander Rear- Admiral Steve Koehler.

"We are prepared to conduct operations in 7th Fleet with the same persistence and flawless execution the strike group exhibited in 5th Fleet," he added.