UTAPAO, Thailand – One of the oldest aircraft types in the U.S. Navy’s inventory has
adapted to fill a variety of missions in recent years. This
adaptability, and the fact that dozens of Navies around the world
fly it or some variant of the airframe, made the P-3C Orion the
ideal aircraft to participate in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and
Training (CARAT) Thailand 2011.
During the nine-day CARAT exercise, Combat Air Crew 9, a detachment
from the “Skinny Dragons” of Patrol Squadron Four (VP-4), based in
Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, shared best practices with Royal Thai Navy P-3
aircrews during several symposiums, discussing maintenance,
operations, mine-laying and search and rescue procedures.
The two navies then boarded each other’s aircraft on the ground and
in the air, conducting joint mine laying missions and participating
in air defense exercise missions with combined U.S. and Thai Navy
surface groups at sea.
“The Thai Navy flies the P-3, so there was a lot of commonality
already in our work and procedures,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kim DaCosta, a
P-3C pilot and VP-4’s Officer in Charge for the CARAT mission. “The
Thai aircrews integrated well with our aircrews, and that’s exactly
what this exercise is all about – becoming familiar with one another
so when we are called to work together, there’s a baseline of
understanding and trust already there.”
During the exercise, VP-4 and the Royal Thai Navy’s 102nd Squadron
assembled and dropped a total of 2 mines at sea, mission planned
together and conducted various joint missions in support of other
The CARAT mission nears the end to VP-4’s deployment, which earlier
saw its crews flying search and rescue missions over Japan for
Operation Tomodachi. “Now our crew is making new friends with the
Thais through CARAT, so it’s been a great experience,” she added.
Approximately 1,800 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel are
participating in CARAT Thailand 2011. U.S. Navy ships from Task
Group 73.1 include the amphibious dock landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD
46), the guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83), the frigate
USS Reuben James (FFG 57), and the rescue and salvage ship USNS
Safeguard (T-ARS 50). Additional participants include an amphibious
landing force of Marines from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, U.S. Navy
Seabees, a U.S. Coast Guard training team.
CARAT is a series of bilateral military exercises between the U.S.
Navy and the Armed Forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia,
Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Additionally, Vietnam participates in a CARAT-like skills exchange.