On September 7, the United States and Indonesia kicked off the 23rd iteration of a key bilateral naval exercise between the two sides. CARAT Indonesia, which will last for around a week, is an example of the growing military ties between both countries that are continuing despite some challenges under U.S. President Donald Trump.
As I have detailed before, the United States and Indonesia share a military relationship that has included the standard range of interactions including visits, exchanges, and regular exercises since restrictions in place in the 1990s were lifted under the George W. Bush administration. Functional cooperation also runs the gamut, with Indonesia being an important actor to engage on issues ranging from the Islamic State to the South China Sea, as I have detailed previously (See: “Trump’s Indonesia Challenge Begins with Pence Visit”).
On exercises, both countries participate in bilateral engagements – such as the army exercise Garuda Shield, the air force exercise Cope West, and the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief-focused Gema Bhakti – as well as multilateral ones such as Cobra Gold and the Rim of the Pacific exercises (RIMPAC).
CARAT Indonesia is part of a set of annual bilateral exercises known as the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (hence the acronym CARAT) that the United States conducts with partner navies from South and Southeast Asia focused on maritime security (See: “US Eyes Expanded Military Exercises with ASEAN Navies”). Indonesia has been part of CARAT since the exercise series first began in 1995.
According to the Pentagon, CARAT Indonesia 2017 will witness the participation of more than 300 U.S. military members along with counterparts from the Indonesian Navy and Marines – known as Tentera Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut (TNI-AL). U.S. units participating in the exercise included the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River, a P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and U.S. Marines assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.
CARAT Indonesia 2017, which is taking place on the ground in Surabaya and in the waters and airspace of the Java and Bali Seas, will last until September 17.
According to the Pentagon, the exercise will feature the usual mix of engagements. The sea phase of the exercise will include complex at-sea training in surface warfare; visit, board, search and seizure anti-piracy drills; a gunnery exercise; and maritime patrol operations; while the ashore face will see personnel exchanging best practices on naval tactics during a series of military seminars ashore as well as numerous skills exchanges in maritime domain awareness, aviation seminars, military law, and surface warfare symposia.