Military personnel from the US Navy and the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) have commenced the Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 exercise.

The exercise began virtually, before moving into the waters and airspace of the Strait of Malacca on 23 November.

It will focus on building naval capabilities and includes cooperative evolutions that highlight the US and Malaysian abilities in jointly working towards achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime security environment.

Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 and Task Force (CTF) 76 commander rear admiral Chris Engdahl said: “Our commitment to dedicating resources in exercises is a testament to our innate belief in the power of sharing responsibility in ensuring regional security. MTA Malaysia 2021 represents another step forward.

“The US-Malaysia partnership is built on over 60 years of rich history with close collaboration between the US and Royal Malaysian Navy in maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief.”

The at-sea phase of the exercise will see US naval assets join with ships and aircraft from the RMN for partnered training focused on enhancing interoperability.

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Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Tulsa, MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to CTF 72 are the participating US ships and aircraft in the exercise.

Surface warfare, mobile dive and salvage training, a gunnery exercise, exchanges between explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians, and replenishment-at-sea activities will also be included in the exercise.

The US workforce in the exercise includes staff from CTF 72, CTF 73, CTF 75, CTF 76, DESRON 7, US 7th Fleet Band, and US Embassy Kuala Lumpur.

MTA Malaysia has resumed this year with necessary safety mitigation measures after being cancelled last year due to restrictions associated with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Royal Malaysian Navy Western Fleet vice admiral Datuk Abu Bakar bin Md Ajis said: “MTA has not only strengthened the bilateral ties between our nations, but also increased mutual understanding and enhanced interoperability between both navies.”

In September 2017, the US Navy and the RMN commenced bilateral exercise MTA Malaysia 2017 at Lumut Naval Base.