The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) – 2023 bilateral exercise successfully concluded in Sri Lanka on 26th January 2023. Hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet in partnership with the Sri Lanka Navy, CARAT – 2023 Exercise was held in Colombo, Trincomalee and Mullikulam from 19th to 25th January.
The closing ceremony of CARAT – 2023 was held on board ‘USS Anchorage’ at the pier side of Colombo harbour under the auspices of U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka H.E. Julie Chung, Commander of the Navy, Vice Admiral Priyantha Perera and U.S. Seventh Fleet Vice Commander, Rear Admiral Joaquin J. Martinez de Pinillo. Meanwhile, the ceremony at the Naval Dockyard, Trincomalee was presided by Commander Eastern Naval Area and Commandant Volunteer Naval Force, Rear Admiral Dammika Kumara and Lieutenant Max Cutchen of the U.S. Navy on 26th January. Similarly, Commander Northwestern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Nishantha Peiris and Captain Shan Mandrayar of the 4th Marines of U.S. Marine Corps drew the curtain on the proceedings of CARAT – 2023 at Mullikulam on 25th January. Symbolizing cooperation and goodwill, mementoes were also exchanged on these occasions.
CARAT Sri Lanka is a bilateral exercise between Sri Lanka and the United States designed to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, enhance maritime interoperability and preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The bilateral exercise was augmented by Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Coast Guard and Sri Lanka Air Force. In addition, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Maldives National Defence Force also attended as observing partners.
The exercise consisted of both land and sea phases where SLNS Gajabahu and SLNS Samudura of Sri Lanka Navy conducted naval exercises with ‘USS Anchorage’ of the U.S. Navy. The exercises conducted in the sea phase mainly focused on Divisional Tactics (DIVTACs), Visit Board Search & Seizure (VBSS) Operations, Replenishment at Sea (RAS), Overhead Reconnaissance Exercises, Gunnery Exercises (GUNEX), Photo Exercises (PHOTOEX) and Steam Past Exercises.
The Marine Exercises of the land phase of CARAT – 2023 got underway in the beach and sea areas of Mullikulam. Chief among the exercises were; Tactical Combat Casualty Care – TCCC), Jungle Warfare, Military Operation in Urban Terrain (MOUT) and Rescue Operation, Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief (HADR) Exercises, Day and Night Patrols and Ambush, Firing and Combat Lifesaving Exercises. The exercises were carried out by personnel of Sri Lanka Navy Marines, Special Boat Squadron, Rapid Action Boat Squadron, Naval Infantrymen, and U.S. Marine Corps.
In the Naval Dockyard Trincomalee, the CARAT -2023 partners successfully conducted Special Boat Squadron Exercises, Diving and Salvage Exercises, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Exercises, Rivering Exercise, Mine Exercises as well as Small Unmanned Aircraft System (SUAS) Exercises.
On the sidelines of CARAT – 2023, seminars on law and order, enforcement of maritime law and the role of women as well as programmes to strengthen relationships through sports, cultural, and information exchanges were held with the contribution the U.S. and Sri Lanka Navies.
Taking part in exercises of this nature would permit Sri Lanka Navy to gain valuable experience and training by working alongside a more experienced and well-equipped navy like U.S. Navy. This can be particularly valuable in situations where multiple navies are required to work together, when responding to nontraditional maritime threats as well as common maritime challenges.
Official from the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, diplomatic corps, President’s Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the President on National Security Mr Sagala Ratnayaka, ministers, officials, Commander of the Army, Lieutenant General Vikum Liyanage, Commander of the Air Force, Air Marshal Sudarshana Pathirana and a group of senior officers from the tri-services were also present on this occasion.