U.S., Malaysia conduct maritime exercise in Strait of Malacca

Military personnel from Malaysia and the U.S. kicked off Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Malaysia 2021 virtually and in the waters and airspace of the Strait of Malacca, Nov. 23.

The eight-day engagement focuses on the full spectrum of naval capabilities and features cooperative evolutions that highlight the ability of the U.S. and Malaysia to work together toward the common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

“Our commitment to dedicating resources in exercises is a testament to our innate belief in the power of sharing responsibility in ensuring regional security,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 and Task Force (CTF) 76. “MTA Malaysia 2021 represents another step forward.”

The at-sea phase will take place in the Strait of Malacca, where U.S. Navy assets will join with ships and aircraft from the Royal Malaysian Navy for partnered training focused on building interoperability and strengthening relationships. U.S. Navy ships and aircraft include Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16), and embarked MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 and a P-8A Poseidon aircraft assigned to CTF 72.

The exercise will feature complex at-sea training to demonstrate the bilateral force’s ability to work together through numerous events including divisional tactics designed to enhance communication as ships sail together in complex maneuvers. Other focus areas include surface warfare, mobile dive and salvage training, replenishment-at-sea, a gunnery exercise, and exchanges between explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

“MTA has not only strengthened the bilateral ties between our nations but also increased mutual understanding and enhanced interoperability between both navies,” said Vice Adm. Datuk Abu Bakar bin Md Ajis, commander, Western Fleet, Royal Malaysian Navy.

U.S. personnel include staff from CTF 72, CTF 73, CTF 75, CTF 76, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, U.S. 7th Fleet Band and U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur. Virtual subject matter expert exchange events will feature a variety of joint training opportunities, to include dive/salvage training, aviation and information sharing, force protection, maritime domain awareness, and maritime law and law enforcement. 

The intergovernmental organization personnel from the European Union’s Critical Maritime Routes Indo-Pacific (EU-CRIMARIO) initiative will provide subject matter expertise aimed to aid in understanding of the operational environment, and 7th Fleet desires to continue this approach in future iterations.

During the opening ceremony, Engdahl spoke about the history of U.S.-Malaysia cooperation and emphasized the foundation of successful partnerships.

“The U.S.-Malaysia partnership is built on over 60 years of rich history with close collaboration between the U.S. and Royal Malaysian Navy in maritime security and humanitarian assistance/disaster relief,” said Engdahl. “True partnership and progress require constant work. They require building trust, courage to listen and learn from each other, and fortitude to stand by one another in the face of common danger.”

This year, MTA Malaysia has resumed with safety mitigation measures after being cancelled in 2020 due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysia has been part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise series since it began in 1995. MTA Malaysia 2021 is a continuation of 27 years of maritime engagements between the U.S. Navy and Royal Malaysian Navy serving to enhance mutual capabilities in ensuring maritime security and stability.

As the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed destroyer squadron in Southeast Asia, DESRON 7 serves as the primary tactical and operational commander of littoral combat ships rotationally deployed to Singapore, functions as 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.

Text credit: Lt. j.g. Mohammad Issa, DESRON 7

Image credit: Royal Malaysian Navy

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