Maritime forces from 20 Indo-Pacific partner nations, including the U.S. Navy, and non-governmental and international organizations, began the 22nd iteration of Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) in the Republic of Singapore. This year included India for the first time since the series began over two decades ago.
SEACAT is a multilateral exercise designed to enhance cooperation among Indo-Pacific nations and provide mutual support towards addressing crises, contingencies, and illegal activities in the maritime domain using standardized tactics, techniques, and procedures.
The exercise allows for several exchanges and training on multilateral cooperation in support of maintaining rules and norms in the maritime domain across the Indo-Pacific. During the opening ceremony for the exercise, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Chris Stone, commander, Task Force 76/3 and Expeditionary Strike Group 7, spoke about the importance of partnership and working together to be able to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
SEACAT promotes shared commitments to maritime partnerships, security, and stability in Southeast Asia. Twenty nations participated this year, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
For this iteration of SEACAT, the first week of the exercise will be a shore phase. This will include a maritime domain awareness (MDA) seminar and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) workshop. The seminar features presentations and interactive, small group breakout sessions with representatives from all participating nations. The VBSS workshop will be led by members of the U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (USCG MSRT).
Shore-based training will also include an unmanned aerial systems (UAS) workshop covering a broad range of tactics and procedures for SEACAT participants to develop MDA.
“Training together develops capability and trust among participating countries, fosters cooperation and provides mutual support in response to a crisis or illegal activity in the maritime domain,” said Capt. Sean Lewis, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. “The collaboration and advanced maneuvers that we are executing, the skill level that is on display, and the enthusiasm of the participants is unmatched. I am continually impressed when I see how much we can do together. Our success here makes me confident in our ability to grow stronger relationships with our partners and maintain continued peace and security in this region.”
During week two of the exercise, the sea phase, Singapore will serve as a centralized hub for crisis coordination and information sharing. Countries will work with all available MDA tools to provide cueing and contact information to another country’s operations center and maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft or surface assets to further advance interoperability. Participants will also receive training in boarding operations by multiple nations designed to simulate real-world at-sea environments. USCG MSRT members will embark the vessel and facilitate participants’ VBSS training.