The US Navy has announced the conclusion of the 27th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series, CARAT Timor-Leste 2021 exercise.

It concluded on 15 December following nine days of virtual, in-person and at-sea activities.

The exercise aims to enhance the partnership between the Timor-Leste Defense Force (F-FDTL) and the US military.

It focused on shared maritime security challenges within the Indo-Pacific region. The exercise also aimed to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.

Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Charleston and embarked MH-60S Seahawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 21 are the US assets that participated in the at-sea portion of CARAT Timor-Leste exercise.

DESRON 7 commodore captain Tom Ogden said: “Over these nine days of exercise events, Timor-Leste and US naval forces made tremendous progress in learning more about each other’s capabilities and building trust and understanding between our operators.

“This level of collaboration prepares our forces to work together during real-world operations and in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The at-sea phase of the exercise was held in the territorial waters surrounding Port Hera.

For this phase, F-FDTL members embarked on Charleston for partnered training, which aimed at building interoperability and enhancing relationships.

The sea phase enabled the naval forces to hone their capabilities and focused on aspects such as navigation; engineering; damage control; and visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS).

During the harbour phase, F-FDTL and US Marines from First Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) took part in joint training events.

Ogden added: “The sailors and Marines involved in CARAT Timor-Leste executed events perfectly and grew stronger bonds with their F-FDTL counterparts.

“We look forward to continuing to build on our partnership during future engagements, including CARAT 2022.”