SINGAPORE -- The 21st annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise concluded Aug. 26, 2022 following 10 days of in-person and at-sea engagements that enhanced collaboration among 21 Indo-Pacific partners and focused on shared maritime security challenges of the region.
SEACAT is a multilateral exercise designed to enhance cooperation among Southeast Asian countries and provide mutual support and a common goal to address crises, contingencies, and illegal activities in the maritime domain using standardized tactics, techniques, and procedures. In a welcome return to normalcy, SEACAT 2022 was a full-scale, in-person exercise following primarily virtual engagements and non-contact sea phases the previous two years.
“These past two weeks have reiterated what we already knew – our nations and maritime forces are smarter and stronger when we share information and work together.” said Capt. Tom Ogden, commodore, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7. “The in-person, multilateral collaboration exhibited in SEACAT has undoubtedly enhanced our relationships and promoted maritime security across the Indo-Pacific.”
Twenty-one partner nations participated in the exercise, including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, Fiji, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
Ashore, SEACAT included a Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) seminar that featured presentations, live question and answer sessions, panel discussions, and interactive, small group breakout sessions with representatives from all participating nations as well as international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and academia.
“The expertise brought by the participating international and non-governmental organizations was invaluable and provided realistic context to our multinational maritime exercise,” said Ogden.
Non-military participants included members of EU Critical Maritime Route Wider Indian Ocean (CRIMARIO), International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University Singapore (LKYSPP NUS), The Pew Charitable Trusts, Risk Intelligence, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Stable Seas, and United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The shore phase also involved an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) workshop that brought together UAS programs across the region to share best practices in UAS employment, planning and operations to develop and improve MDA.
“This joint exercise presented unique training opportunities for international information sharing and bolstered the trusted partnerships between all nations involved,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Tiongson, Coast Guard Pacific Area commander. “Maritime Domain Awareness, which includes valuable input, collaboration and unity of effort from all partners, is key to maritime governance and security in the region.”
The sea phase included boarding operations by multiple nations across the contracted vessel designed to provide training opportunities in real-world at-sea environments. U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team (USCG MSRT) embarked the vessel and facilitated participants’ interdictions and boardings, building on skills practiced during the shore phase Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) workshop.
Running concurrently with the sea phase, a command post exercise at Singapore’s Information Fusion Center served as a centralized hub for information sharing in the tracking of the contracted merchant vessel simulating suspicious vessels of interest in seas throughout Southeast Asia.
“As the 21st iteration of the SEACAT exercise series, 2022 underscores the longstanding role of SEACAT as a key venue for regional allies and partners to address shared maritime security priorities and concerns,” said Ogden. “We look forward to following up SEACAT with routine cooperation day-to-day, and then increased complexity and collaboration when we meet again for SEACAT 2023.”
U.S. Navy participants included staff from DESRON 7, P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to Task Force 72, and personnel from Task Force 76, U.S. 7th Fleet, and U.S. Pacific Fleet.
As the U.S. Navy’s destroyer squadron forward-deployed in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7’s Sea Combat Commander, and builds partnerships through training exercises and military-to-military engagements.
Under Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.