Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) units have practiced essential escorting operations during a fast-paced exercise in the central Gulf.
Exercise Falcon Defender, led by CMF’s Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, was designed to get the participating ships and aircraft from different nations working together to escort ship’s carrying valuable cargo, in this case played by UK Forward Repair Ship RFA Diligence.
A ship that carries a valuable cargo may need to be protected during transit through an area where there is a heightened security risk from, terrorist or pirate attack, for example.
Such transits can occur all over the world but are most likely to be needed through geographic choke points, such as the Strait of Hormuz or the Bab al Mandeb Strait, where ships have little room to manoeuvre and are at their most vulnerable.
UK frigate HMS Westminster, United States Ships (USS) Carney and Chinook, two US Sea Hawk helicopters and several Royal Bahrain Naval Force vessels took part in the exercise.
Lieutenant Rob Couzens, Royal Navy, Navigating Officer on board HMS Westminster said: “It was quite a sight watching all these vessels sailing together at speed and quite inspiring to see our allies working alongside us so well.”
Captain Peter Selby, RFA, Commanding Officer, RFA Diligence said: “The exercise reaffirmed the ability of the Coalition Maritime Forces to protect ship’s carrying valuable cargo. I feel reassured that should I need protection it will be provided by the Naval forces available to the coalition and would be successful.”
HMS Westminster’s Able Seaman Specialist Jack Vant, part of the Ship’s Force Protection team, said: “With Seahawks buzzing overhead and US Navy ships roaring past, this was by far the most exciting and realistic exercise I have seen so far this deployment. I enjoyed every minute of it!”
Captain Hugh Beard, Royal Navy, Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, said: “Being able to conduct numerous training exercises with our allied counterparts ensures that we remain ready in all respects for whatever tasking may be required of us. It also means we can develop the relationship with our allies and enhance our ability to work alongside one another professionally and effectively.”
After the exercise it was back to business for HMS Westminster as she returned to Maritime Security Operations (MSO) under the command of CTF 152.
CTF 152 is one of three task forces commanded by CMF, a multinational naval partnership of 30 nations, which exists to promote security, stability and prosperity across approximately 2.5 million square miles of international waters, which encompass some of the world’s most important shipping lanes.
CTF 152 is currently US led and is mandated to conduct MSO in the Gulf to build the capability of both the organisation as a whole and individual member states, allowing for increasingly effective regional maritime security.