Naval forces of the US and Sri Lanka have officially commenced the bilateral exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023.

The exercise, which is currently underway, commenced on 19 January in Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo.

It was marked by an opening ceremony led by Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) deputy chief of staff and Operations director general rear admiral Pradeep Rathnayake and US Navy Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 deputy commodore captain Sean Lewis.

Lewis said: “CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka is designed to exchange ideas as well as tactics.

“We will practice interoperability and strengthen our interpersonal relationships — both at sea and in port.”

This year’s exercise will continue to take place ashore in Colombo and from SLN’s bases in Trincomalee and Mullikulam. However, the sea phase exercise will take place in Laccadive Sea.

CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka 2023 will involve participation of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Maldives National Defence Force, the US Navy and Marine Corps as well as the SLN and Sri Lanka Air Force.

It is the 28th iteration of the CARAT series, which has been designed to strengthen the collaborative capabilities of the two nations to address various maritime security threats in the Indo-Pacific region.

Among the participating assets from the SLN are offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627).

Meanwhile, the US has deployed its 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), aboard San Antonio-class ship USS Anchorage (LPD 23), P-8A Poseidon aircraft and personnel from DESRON 7, Amphibious Squadron 7, Seventh Fleet and Commander, Task Force (CTF) 72, 73, 76/3.

The two forces will undertake several air defence drills, small boat operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.