SEACAT exercise helps build international partnerships

The annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training exercise kicks off this week with three U.S. Navy vessels taking center stage. USNS Matthew Perry (T-AKE 9) and USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) join our Navy’s first littoral combat ship, USS Freedom (LCS 1), in a maritime training exercise that includes naval forces from seven Southeast Asian countries. Our Navy’s three ships will serve as “vessels of interest” where naval forces train together to successfully track, locate and board vessels where illicit cargo or personnel are believed to be on board. Military Sealift Command plays an integral part of our Navy’s strategic security posture to build partnerships and friendships in a key area of the world.

USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), seen here Aug. 21 in the Pacific Ocean.

USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), seen Aug. 21 in the Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Declan Barnes)

From a nerve center at a Singapore naval base liaison officers from several Southeast Asian countries are tracking three “vessels of interest.” Based on shared intelligence, naval ships from Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines are deployed to intercept and board these ships suspected of harboring terrorists, carrying dangerous cargo, or involved in other illicit activities.

Sound like a scene from the latest Hollywood blockbuster? Certainly could be.

But, this is no movie and the stars of this two-week, multi-national training exercise dubbed Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training, or SEACAT, are three U.S. naval vessels: Perry, Rappahannock and Freedom.

The SEACAT 2013 exercise, which kicked off yesterday, will be coordinated from a Multinational Operations and Exercise Center at Singapore’s Changi naval base. Here, watchstanders from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States will track U.S. ships.

Shore-based radars and maritime patrol aircraft from participating nations will pass information to the multinational watch floor, where liaison officers will develop boarding plans.

Next, ships from the Thai and Malaysian navies will intercept and board Perry off the coast of Thailand and Malaysia, while a naval vessel from the Republic of the Philippines will intercept and board Rappahannock off the coast of the southern Philippines.

SEACAT highlights the value of information sharing and multilateral cooperation in scenarios that give participating navies hands-on practice in maritime security operations.

SEACAT, which began in 2002 under the name Southeast Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism, was renamed after the 2011 exercise to expand the scope of training among regional navies.

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