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Bell Buoy

The Bell Buoy (BB) Exercise rotate locations and are planned through the International Working Group. Bell Buoy 00 was hosted by Australia and was not be a fifth fleet exercise. CPF 920 is responsible for US participation in Bell Buoy.

Naval Control of Shipping (NCS) was first utilized during the Second World War to organize convoys and control the reinforcement and re-supply shipping to Europe. During the cold war, NATO countries retained the NCS organization and continued to maintain professional relations with the merchant shipping community throughout the world.

Exercise BELL BUOY 99 was designed to test and validate Regional NCS doctrine in support of Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) from various ports around the Arabian Gulf. Upon arrival in the Gulf, naval reservists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Chile, and Australia were incorporated into a Canadian-led multinational NCS team.

Exercise BELL BUOY 99 validated the concept that NCS can be employed as both a long-range detection asset and as a force multiplier. Merchant ship characteristics information obtained by NCS personnel, along with the timely reporting of merchant shipping movements, assisted in the identification of both legitimate and suspect vessels. The result of implementing these new NCS procedures was that fewer resources were required to process legitimate shipping, thereby freeing up naval and air assets to detect, search, identify and interdict suspect vessels.

Building on the success of Bell Buoy 99 in the Arabian Gulf, CPF 920 continued to be a force provider for subsequent NCS exercises in the Middle East. NAVCENT 109 worked with NAVCENT staff in looking at NCS roles in the 00 and 01 exercises. NAVCENT 109 and CPF 920 determined requirements, roles and responsibilities for PACFLT NCSO units.

The BELL BUOY exercise series is the successor to several Naval Co-ordination and Guidance of Shipping (NCAGS) exercises that were initiated in the early 1970s and conducted solely in the Pacific Ocean area.

NCAGS exercises have probably, in one form or another, been conducted since the mid-1950s. In 1951 the then Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet, Vice Admiral Radford, and the Royal Australian Navy's Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Collins, executed an agreement as to how the USN and the RAN would interact in the Indian and southern Pacific Oceans (Reference B). This agreement was executed at the time of the Korean War was the cornerstone of, amongst other things, allied NCS exercises in the Australian, New Zealand, Indian Ocean and (US) Pacific Fleet (ANZIO PACFLT) areas until the mid-1980s. Although it was technically a procedural document, it effectively put in place an allied naval command and control structure for the ANZIO PACFLT area.

Subsequent NCS exercises in the ANZIO PACFLT area carried names such as RIPCORD and ROLLER COASTER (in the 1970s). Countries participating in these exercises were Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The exercises were conducted annually. Australia, New Zealand and the United States participated pursuant to Reference B, Canada (it is submitted) pursuant to Reference A and the United Kingdom due to its residual role and influence in the region.

In the early 1980s the NCAGS exercise series changed. The ROLL CALL series were developed and conducted in even years and another exercise series (EXPANDED SEA) was developed for conduct in odd years. Within the ANZIO region the exercises were virtually identical, but whilst the former was founded upon Reference B and was contained within the ANZIO PACFLT area the latter was usually a world wide exercise (often dovetailed into NATO exercises such as WINTEX, TRADE WIND and TRADE DAGGER) and was utilised by the United States to involve regions such as South America and US forces in the Middle East in NCAGS. It was at this time that France (having a significant presence both in New Caledonia and Tahiti) was invited to participate: in fact, she rarely did so.

In 1986 a diplomatic dispute between the United States of America and New Zealand over the formers nuclear powered and nuclear armed warships led to the effective lapse of the Australia - New Zealand - United States (ANZUS) Treaty. The ANZUS Treaty had been considered a key defence alliance in the ANZIO PACFLT area, and New Zealand's withdrawal from it immediately had an affect on the relationships between the USN and the RAN on the one hand and the RNZN on the other. The USN announced that it could no longer participate in any exercise (including NAGCS) in which the RNZN was involved, and the RAN accepted that when it exercised with the USN it was unable to exercise with the RNZN.

As a consequence a new exercise series, had to be developed and the BELL BUOY series came into being. Countries participating in the BELL BUOY series originally were Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. France was again invited to participate and has done so, but only on a few occasions. Originally the series also dove-tailed into a NATO exercise (again, usually WINTEX) but with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the decline and end of the Cold War in the few years commencing 1989, the exercise began to stand alone. In 1989 the fist two observer nations - Chile and the Republic of Korea - participated.

Since its inception in the late 1980s the BELL BUOY series has itself changed in character. The collapse of the Soviet Union as a maritime threat - particularly in the ANZIO PACFLT area - resulted in the annual planning for the exercise to move from a foundation of allied nations acting against a powerful, common threat to that of several allied nations each of which appreciated that should exercise with, and be familiar with the NCS procedures of, its allies whilst (in effect) exercising its own forces on the basis of a purely regional (i.e. local) scenario.

Today the BELL BUOY exercise series has two main strengths. Firstly, it is the only 'vehicle' that enables nations in the ANZIO PACFLT area and, more broadly, in the Pacific and Indian Oceans Rim to ensure that each participating nation understands how every other participant views NCS and what procedures it has in place to conduct NCS or NCAPS operations. Secondly, it has spawned one of only two groups (i.e., the PACIOSWG - the other is the NATO SWG) which meet to discuss matters of common interest in the area of the protection of maritime trade at the strategic and operational level. To that extent, whilst its exercise scenarios may not these days be as coordinated as might be hoped, it is essentially a non-threatening forum.

The BELL BUOY series was, via its predecessors, born at the height of the Cold War and in its own way is as useful to the protection of maritime trade in the ANZIO PACFLT area today as its predecessors were more than 30 years ago.



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