COLOMBO, Sri Lanka –
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps began exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 with the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) and Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) in Colombo, Jan. 19, 2023.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a joint, bilateral maritime exercise taking place ashore in Colombo and at the SLN bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam. The sea phase will take place in the Laccadive Sea. This year’s exercise includes participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force, and coincides with the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations and partnership between the United States and Sri Lanka.
The exercise commenced with an opening ceremony led by Deputy Chief of Staff / Director General Operations of SLN Rear Adm. Pradeep Rathnayake, and Capt. Sean Lewis, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7.
“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is designed to exchange ideas as well as tactics,” said Lewis. “We will practice interoperability and strengthen our interpersonal relationships — both at sea and in port.”
Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) will meet the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage (LPD 23), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), at sea. Training will focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as air defense, small boat operations, and replenishment-at-sea approaches.
“I believe each event perfectly reflects the excellent collaboration between our forces and emphasizes our partnership in promoting regional security, combining knowledge, skill and understanding of goals, cultures and ideals,” said Rathnayake.
The shore phase trainings will consist of classroom subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE), practical education, and a Women, Peace and Security roundtable hosted by U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung. Highlights will include a series of public performances and exchanges between both country’s navy bands, a sports day, and a series of community service activities, as well as SMEEs on issues like diving and underwater construction, medical support, and maritime domain awareness.
“For seventy-five years, Sri Lanka and the United States have worked together to preserve an international community in which diverse sovereign states can unite to work with each other while maintaining their own respective identities,” said Rear Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force (CTF) 76/3. “CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka will help us move in unison toward achieving our shared goals of safety and prosperity.”
Additional participating U.S. assets include a P-8A Poseidon and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, CTF 73, CTF 76/3, DESRON 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7.
CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability.
In its 28th year, the CARAT series is comprised of multinational exercises, designed to enhance U.S. and partner navies’ abilities to operate together in response to traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU are trained to operate in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed DESRON in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as CTF 76/3 Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements as the executing agent of Commander, Task Group CARAT.
Task Force 76/3 recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of Navy's Task Force 76, 7th Fleet, and 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.