Philippines, USA and ASEAN 5 day Naval WAR Drill kicked off August 29

USS Safeguard (ARS-50) is a Safeguard-class salvage ship, the second United States Navy ship of that name. Safeguard was laid down on 8 November 1982 by Peterson Builders, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin; launched on 12 November 1983; and commissioned on 17 August 1985. Photo from Wikimedia

Navy units from the Philippines, the United States and five other Southeast Asian countries on Tuesday commenced a fleet training exercise at the Malacca Strait, Sulu Sea and Subic Bay.

Four ships and one islander aircraft from the Philippine Navy will participate in this year's exercise. As in the previous Seacat exercises, several ships from each participating country will join the training with one US Navy ship, USS Safeguard, designated as the COI for the participating Southeast Asian Navies

With the Philippines; Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand also joined SEACAT 2012 with the United States of the Philippines, which will be held August 29 until September 2, 2012.

The exercises are being held two months after the nuclear-powered US submarine USS Louisville made a port call at Subic.

Louisville is the second US attack submarine that visited the Philippines since Washington bared plans to enhance its presence in the Asia Pacific. The first was USS North Carolina which docked in Subic Bay last May.

Another US vessel, the hospital ship USNS Mercy, also docked in Subic last month to replenish its supplies.

Navy spokesman Col. Omar Tonsay said the five-day training exercise, called the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), will involve surface, air and special operations units from the participating countries.

"They [Southeast Asian countries] will participate with the US Navy in a scenario-driven fleet training exercise against terrorism, transnational crimes and other maritime threats which focus on real time information exchange, coordinated surveillance operations, tracking and eventual conduct of Visit, Board, Search and Seizure to the maritime Contact of Interest or the designated target vessel," said Tonsay.

 Tonsay added the U.S. is deploying the USS Safeguard for the exercise, a rescue and salvage ship which will be serving as the Contact of Interest. The Philippine Navy has earmarked 200 personnel, four ships and an aircraft for SEACAT.

"They will participate together with the US Navy in a scenario-driven fleet training exercise against terrorism, transnational crimes and other maritime threats," Tonsay said in a statement.

The exercises focus on real-time information exchange, coordinated surveillance operations, tracking, and visit, board, search and seizure of target vessels.

"This activity will involve surface, air, and special operations units in the conduct of surveillance, tracking, and boarding of the COI (contact of interest) from the different participating navies within their respective maritime territories." Navy chief Vice Adm. Alexander Pama said.

A maritime interdiction operations scenario will be conducted at the Subic Bay and at the Sulu Sea.

Coast Watch stations of the participating countries will also be used to exercise their capabilities in surveillance, tracking, communications, and operations.

"With this training, the Philippine Navy will be able to enhance regional coordination, information sharing, and combined inter-operability capability with participating navies in the region," Tonsay said.

He claimed the activity would also improve the maritime security capability of the military.

Tonsay could not say what personnel and assets the other Southeast Asian countries have committed to SEACAT, but these units will not enter Philippine waters

 Tonsay said maritime interdiction operation scenarios with boarding opportunities will be conducted at Subic Bay and at the Sulu Sea.

 "At the same time, Coast Watch stations in the different participating Naval Forces AORs [areas of responsibility] will be utilized to exercise their capabilities in surveillance, tracking, communications, and operations," he added

 SEACAT is an annual exercise conducted at vital sea lanes in Southeast Asia to secure the area from terrorists, poachers, and transnational lawless elements.

"With this training, the Philippine Navy will be able to enhance regional coordination, information sharing, and combined inter-operability capability with participating navies in the region, test its personnel and naval assets operational readiness and ultimately, improve the maritime security capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," he explained.

Singapore will serve as the war games' command and control center.

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