First Asean-US Maritime Exercise begins in international waters in South-east Asia

Participants of the Asean-US Maritime Exercise using the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Information Fusion Centre Real-time Information-sharing System at the Changi Command and Control Centre to sense-make information and identify vessels of interest. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - The first Asean-United States Maritime Exercise began on Monday (Sept 2) with manoeuvres in international waters in South-east Asia, including in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.

Eight warships and four aircraft from seven countries, and more than a thousand personnel representing all 10 Asean member states and the United States are taking part in the exercise, a US Navy statement said on Sunday.

The Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN's) Formidable-class frigate RSS Tenacious is among the vessels involved in the five-day exercise, which is being co-led by the US and Royal Thai navies.

Vice-Admiral Phil Sawyer, who is commander of the US 7th Fleet, said in the statement: "Our forces sail together during exercises throughout the year and have done so for decades.

"(The exercise) provides a new multilateral venue to work together on shared maritime security priorities in the region."

Singapore's Ministry of Defence, in a statement on Monday, said the participating navies would work together to simulate identifying and locating vessels suspected to be conducting illegal activities. Boarding teams from the various navies would also be conducting search and seizure operations.

Commander of the First Flotilla from the RSN, Colonel Lim Yu Chuan, said: "The exercise is a useful platform for the navies of Asean member states to engage with the US Navy to strengthen practical cooperation, enhance understanding and build confidence, by working together to deal with maritime incidents at sea.

"It is important for navies to cooperate with each other to protect the key maritime trade routes and work towards safer seas for all," said the commanding officer of 185 Squadron.

The exercise is being conducted with support from the RSN's Information Fusion Centre Real-time Information-sharing System (Iris), a Web-based information-sharing system designed to enable rapid collaboration for maritime security which was launched in May.

The opening ceremony took place at Sattahip Naval Base in Thailand, and the exercise will conclude on Friday.

The exercise was first proposed at the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) in 2017 and confirmed during the 12th ADMM in October 2018.

While this is the first exercise of its kind with Asean, the US Navy has conducted engagements, exercises and port visits in South-east Asia for decades.

For instance, the 25th edition of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) bilateral exercise series took place this year, along with the 18th South-east Asia Cooperation and Training (Seacat) multilateral exercise.

Mindef added that Singapore's participation in the exercise reaffirms the excellent and longstanding defence relationship between Singapore and the US, and Singapore's longstanding support for US' engagement of the region.

The first Asean-China Maritime Field Training Exercise took place in October 2018 in Zhanjiang, China. Co-organised by Singapore and China, it was the first exercise that Asean held with one other country.

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