Largest Middle Eastern maritime exercise kicks off in Bahrain

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The biggest maritime exercise in the Middle East and the largest-scale unmanned maritime exercise in the world kicked off on January 31 during a ceremony at the US Navy’s 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, the North American force said in a statement on Monday.

9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from 60 countries and international organizations and more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 countries are participating in the 18 day event.

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The International Maritime Exercise, a typically biennial training exercise led by the US Naval Forces Central Command, has combined with counterparts Cutlass Express (CE) led annually by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean.

The combined training event IMX/CE 2022 will thus span across the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Red Sea and the North Indian Ocean.

“This level of representation demonstrates shared resolve in preserving the rules-based international order,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.

“This is a unique opportunity to increase our capabilities and interoperability while strengthening maritime ties,” he added, according to the statement.

Bahrain’s Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister, observed part of the event during its first day and was briefed on new unmanned technologies.

Al-Khalifa voiced the importance of safeguarding international maritime traffic from any threats that harm global trade and thanked the US for its role toward serving this end.

He also emphasized the need to unify international efforts to further enhance regional maritime security, according to the Navy’s press release.

The participants will test unmanned systems and artificial intelligence in various training scenarios to eventually apply what is learnt during real-world activities, the statement said, adding that the exercise will also include strengthening capabilities in command and control and maritime security operations among others.

The statement also revealed that the forces participating in IMX/CE 2022 are categorized into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya and Oman.

Some of the other countries participating in the training exercise are Belgium, India, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Uruguay.

The NATO Allied Maritime Command and INTERPOL are among the several organizations taking part in the exercise, which concludes on February 17.

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