Combined Task Force 152 (CTF-152) held a major maritime infrastructure protection exercise in the Gulf this month as part of an annual pre-planned training programme.
CTF-152, part of the 30 nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) organisation, conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf, engaging with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the wider maritime community to build capacity and increase interoperability in order to prevent terrorists and non-state actors using the maritime environment for illegal activities.
The exercise ran from 11 January for five days and provided an opportunity for participating navies and coast guards to hone the skills used to protect maritime infrastructure, such as oil platforms, harbours and ports. The level of participation this year was high compared to previous exercises, with ships and aircraft from the Kuwaiti Navy, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, the Royal Bahraini Naval Forces, the UAE Coast Guard as well as the US Navy, the French Navy and the UK’s Royal Fleet Auxiliary taking part.
Captain Suliman Al-Enazi, Commander of CTF-152, said:
“I was impressed by CTF-152’s ability to plan and execute such a complex exercise involving participants from so many nations. The skills necessary to effectively protect maritime infrastructure are vital to regional navies. 2015’s maritime infrastructure protection exercise was a great success and I look forward to doing it again next year.”
Using British auxiliary RFA Fort Austin as a stand-in oil platform, the remainder of the ships split into two groups, with one responsible for 360 degree protection of the ‘critical infrastructure’ from simulated aggressive attacks by the other group of ships. The protection operations provides a chance to coordinate tactics between the various nations and test communications protocols.
CTF-152, headquartered in Bahrain, sent liaison officers to sea in RFA Fort Austin, providing direction and guidance to the various ships in the task group. Following successful completion of the exercise, representatives from the various nations came together onboard the British ship for a discussion of lessons learned for the future, including points relating to multi-layered protection, secure communications and ensuring optimal employment of different classes of ships and aircraft.
Captain Booth, Commanding Officer of RFA Fort Austin, said:
“We really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in an exercise involving so many different partners in the Gulf. It was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise, despite very challenging weather conditions.”