Exercise Stakenet, one of a series of routinely planned Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) exercises recently completed, Feb, 9.  The exercise began on Feb.5 in the northern Arabian Gulf and featured active participation by Kuwaiti Naval Ships (KNS) Al Nokhetha and Maskan, the guided missile destroyers USS John Paul Jones and USS Sterett, patrol craft USS Typhoon and USS Chinook, the British Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll, a Kuwaiti Coast Guard patrol boat, two Kuwaiti Marine fast boats, U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters, U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and U,S. Air Force F-16 aircraft.

The maritime security exercise was planned and lead by Kuwaiti-led Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, headquartered in Kuwait, with the Task Group Commander embarked at sea onboard USS Sterett. The maritime security evolutions carried out during the week aim to build experience and develop common working procedures amongst the navies of the Combined Maritime Forces.

Stakenet is held regularly during each nation’s rotation in command of the Command Task Force 152  units from CMF navies and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)  Coast Guard forces join together to exercise procedures to protect critical maritime infrastructure within the region.  By exercising together on a regular basis, maritime tactics and reporting procedures become familiar and clearly understood by all of the nations taking part.   The complex exercise was hailed a considerable success during the post exercise conference held at sea, yielding useful lessons regarding multi-layered protection and secure communications procedures and exercising the best tactical employment of the differing classes of ships and aircraft.

Colonel Khalid Abdullah, the Commander of CTF 152 said:

“Stakenet was a great success that showed how well the Kuwait Navy can work at sea with coalition partners.  Vessels from the Kuwait Navy, Coastguard, and Marines combined with US and UK ships and air assets worked as one team to defend critical maritime infrastructure.  We even successfully tested newly acquired communications gear that worked wonderfully.  I’m very proud of how all the units assigned to CTF 152 performed during this exercise.”

Captain Ed Cashman, the Stakenet Task Group Commander said,

“This exercise has been very successful. The command and control worked well in achieving the integration of aircraft, and practicing and standardizing the procedures to work together seamlessly between the US, UK and Kuwaiti Navy and Coastguard force elements. Exercises, such as these, help to increase maritime awareness and locate potential threats early to respond sooner.  It is really a question of building and sharing the maritime picture accurately.  It is also good practice for the normally land-based Command HQ Staff to be at sea in the flagship operating from within the Fleet”

Speaking of the embarkation of the staff to USS Sterett, Commanding Officer Rich McDaniel said,

“The integration of the CTF HQ staff has been near flawless, the ship set up the information technology, set aside working spaces, carried out communication checks so that there could be integration from day one. One aspect of the exercise I find particularly valuable was the training achieved by my air controllers and the helicopter pilots. It was a great experience to work with all the coalition forces and to refine our procedures in maritime infrastructure protection.”

The Kuwaiti Navy representative on the CTF 152 Staff, Capt Mohammed Al Fathala said, “This was a good exercise, and was the first time we have used encrypted communications between all the elements proving another valuable step forward in coordination. The crew of the Sterett have been wonderful and we’re really closing the gap between our navies, allowing us to act as one combined maritime force.”

This is the Kuwait Navy’s second time commanding CTF 152, after the hand over from the UAE in Sept. 2011.

The Mission of CTF 152 is to counter terrorism, illegal maritime practices and defeat destabilising activity in their operational area through integration of regional partners to improve overall security and stability and enhance regional national capability.

CTF 152 is one of three maritime task forces operated by the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), a 25 nation coalition based in Bahrain.  The Task Force operates regularly in regional waters with all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations and compliments the security of GCC nations in their own territorial waters.