Thai and U.S. Navies strengthen alliance in CARAT

GULF OF THAILAND (June 3, 2017) Photo courtesy of

More than 2,100 officers from the United States and Royal Thai Navies trained and drilled together last week in the waters off the coast of Thailand in the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise, which a U.S. Navy Admiral said strengthened the bilateral alliance in “meaningful ways.”

The drills were the 23rd time the two militaries have conducted CARAT together. The U.S. conducts CARAT drills with several nations, and Thailand and the U.S. began joint CARAT trainings in 1995. The U.S. Navy describes CARAT as a regional venue to address shared maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability among participating forces, and develop sustained naval partnerships with nations across South and Southeast Asia.

“Our engagement through CARAT provides the U.S. and Thailand an opportunity to strengthen our alliance and maritime partnership in very meaningful ways,” said Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, commander of naval Task Force 73.

Thailand has been giving added emphasis to naval security, recently announcing plans to buy submarines to patrol the Gulf of Thailand. The Kingdom has no serious disputes over maritime borders with any nation, but the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, piracy in the region and protecting marine resources from incursions and poaching by foreign fishing fleets have spurred Thailand to allocate more attention and budget to its Navy.

The joint exercises in this year’s CARAT included an air defense exercise, division tactics, communications exercises, a gunnery exercise, cross-deck flight operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, a photo exercise, and mine warfare operations.

“Over the past eight days our Sailors and Marines worked side-by-side with their Thai counterparts in conducting a variety of training events ashore and operations at sea,” said Capt. Alexis Walker, deputy commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7. “Through 23 years of operating together, CARAT exercises allow us to incorporate new training topics and sea-based operations each year, furthering our interoperability and joint capabilities.”

Some of the drills are conducted onshore. Several new training events were added to that part of the training, including a Basic Maritime Analysis Course. The U.S. Navy said the course is designed to increase analytic skills that support and strengthen maritime domain awareness. It said that 26 officers representing the six agencies within the Royal Thai Maritime Engagements Coordinating Center (MECC) attended the five-day training, which culminated in a practical scenario-based exercise.

“The maritime domain is critical to the security, safety, economy, and environment of a country,” said course instructor Lt. David Andre. “Effectively managing that domain requires the ability to collect, process, and analyze information from a variety of sources, and the training this week emphasized that.”

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