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The US Navy and Marine Corps personnel, along with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), have completed the 21st annual cooperation afloat readiness and training (CARAT) Philippines exercise series.

The recent version of this annual exercise focused on combined operations at sea and maritime domain awareness.

The drill also marked the presence of a littoral combat ship in CARAT Philippines for the first time.

The US Navy’s USS Fort Worth littoral combat ship (LCS 3) participated in training events, including tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), gunnery exercises, manoeuvring in formation, air defence exercises, and a search and rescue drill.

Republic of the Philippines (ROP) Navy Western Command commander vice admiral Alexander Lopez said: "I am indeed very happy to note that CARAT 2015 has been the manifestation of more than 20 years of training ashore, at sea, and in the air.

"CARAT 2015 has been the manifestation of more than 20 years of training ashore, at sea, and in the air."

"The training activity each year comes with more and more sophistication, especially with the participation of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth."

The CARAT Philippines 2015 saw the participation of more than 300 sailors and marines from units, including rescue and salvage ship USNS Safeguard (T-ARS-50), one forward-deployed P-3C Orion aircraft, Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1, and Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5.

In addition, personnel from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, staff from commander Task Force 73, DESRON 7, and the US 7th Fleet Band Orient Express were also part of the exercise.

The remaining bilateral phases of CARAT 2015 will be conducted with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Timor-Leste through November this year.

Image: Sailors refuel a MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter onboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) during CARAT Philippines 2015. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by mass communication specialist 2nd class Joe Bishop / Released.