THE US Navy ship (USNS) Burlington is in Port of Spain from September 13-15 for joint training exercises with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF).
The USNS Burlington is a spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport (EPF) ship. Newsday was given a tour of the vessel on Tuesday.
In a statement, the US Embassy said the EPF is a US Navy-led shipbuilding programme which provides support to sailors and soldiers in the Department of the Navy and Department of the Army.
The ship just completed a humanitarian mission in Haiti after the earthquake that devastated the country on August 14.
Lieut Commander Arian Huber said the crew was able to use tools aboard the ship, including a drone called the Scan Eagle, to assist first responders in Haiti.
“We’re able to fly it off the ship (and) its sole purpose is intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance. It has full motion video, so in real time we can look at things on the horizon.
“In Haiti we used it extensively to provide route clearance for emergency providers. It’s a very effective tool that I think can do a lot of good for domestic and foreign lines of effort.”
The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet, with a radius of 60 miles.
Huber said the exercise with the TT Coast Guard will take place on Wednesday and the team will have the opportunity to tactically control Scan Eagle and search for potential contacts of interest that might be transporting illicit drugs.
Huber said, “It’s a great opportunity to exercise the combined interoperability with a foreign partner that we hold in high regard.”
He said a similar exercise was recently held in Santo Domingo.
“We would love to do more exercises (in TT), but time is a valuable resource. We would love to stay longer and come back more.
He said the ship’s area of operations include the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific and it is the only EPF in the southern area of operations, specifically the Caribbean. It has a 92-person crew.
A 30-person maintenance engineering team aboard the Burlington helps maintain other ships in the Caribbean, so they can stay on station longer.
“What that means ultimately is more regional stability and security.”
It also supports the Joint Interagency Taskforce South, an organisation set up specifically to counter illicit cargo transport in the high seas and across its area of operations.
“We use Scan Eagle to sometimes look around to see if there are any suspected vessels to transport illicit cargo.”
He said the Burlington also interacts with partner nations in its area of operations, such as TT.
“We are very excited about being in TT and could not believe the hospitality the Coast Guard and (Commanding Officer) Capt Don Polo has shown. They had us over (on Monday) for training and the welcoming and warm nature has been incredibly impressive and not lost on this crew, and we cannot thank the Coast Guard and TT enough for that.”