Thailand hosts first US-ASEAN maritime exercise

US Navy file photo of USS Montgomery underway with Royal Malaysian Navy Kasturi-class corvette KD Gagah Samudera (FSG 271) during Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia.

The first maritime exercise (AUMX) between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the US Navy kicked off with opening ceremonies at Sattahip Naval Base, Thailand on September 2.

Co-led by the US and Royal Thai navies, AUMX will consist of pre-sail activities in Thailand, Singapore and Brunei, followed by a sea phase in international waters in Southeast Asia, including the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea.

The exercise will conclude in Singapore.

In all, AUMX includes eight warships and four aircraft from seven countries, and more than a thousand personnel representing all ten ASEAN member states and the United States.

“Our forces sail together during exercises throughout the year and have done so for decades,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander, US 7th Fleet. “AUMX provides a new multilateral venue to work together on shared maritime security priorities in the region.”

Participating nations include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States and Vietnam.

Rear Adm. Joey Tynch, commander of Task Force 73, who oversees the US Navy’s security cooperation in Southeast Asia, noted that AUMX continues the trend of increased multilateral cooperation among navies in the Indo-Pacific.

Throughout the exercise, ASEAN member states and US forces will operate together under a combined task force structure, executing a variety of realistic scenarios designed to reinforce interoperability in areas such as visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), maritime domain awareness, division tactics and maritime asset tracking.

The task force headquarters will be located on board the Royal Thai Navy vessel HTMS Krabi (OPV 551), and include representatives from each ASEAN member state and the United States. An ashore support element in Singapore will also host representatives from each ASEAN member state.

Commercial vessels have been contracted by the United States to serve as the simulated target vessels for the VBSS portion of the exercise, which will focus on countering maritime threats. Teams from multiple countries will work together to board and seize the ships under a variety of realistic scenarios.

US assets include the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), three MH-60 helicopters, a P-8 Poseidon aircraft and staff assigned to DESRON 7 and CTF 73.

AUMX was first proposed at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) in 2017 and confirmed during the 12th ADMM in October 2018.

While this is the first exercise of its kind with ASEAN, the US Navy has conducted engagements, exercises and port visits in Southeast Asia for decades. In 2019, the 25th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) bilateral exercise series commenced, along with the 18th Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) multilateral exercise.

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