US and European partners conduct exercises with North African maritime and land forces to increase regional maritime awareness and improve maritime security in Exercise Phoenix Express. Exercise Phoenix Express, an annual exercise which began in 2005, was part of the larger Express Series exercises, designed to test skills obtained from participating in bilateral and Africa Partnership Station (APS) initiative.
From 8 to 24 April 2008, the US Sixth Fleet, along with several European and North African navies (Malta, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal), conducted Phoenix Express 2008, a multilateral naval exercise. The Exercise concentrated on operations that directly contributed to safety and security in the maritime domain, focusing on maritime interdiction, communications, and information sharing. Following Phoenix Express 08, US Africa Command's naval component, US Naval Forces, Africa (NAVAF) expected to expand the Exercise in 2009 to include navies from Algeria, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Senegal, and possibly others.
Exercise Phoenix Express 2009, held during May 2009, aimed to improve maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies from the United States, Africa and Europe. During this exercise, sailors became familiar with each others' navies, operating procedures, and practices. When they meet in the future to conduct peacekeeping, humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, weapons, or persons, they would be better able to work together. Countries involved in Phoenix Express 09 were United States, Spain, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Croatia, Libya, and Senegal.
In April 2010, North African maritime interdiction operations teams trained with the US Marine Corps' Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company, Europe from 19 April to 7 May 2010 at Naval Station Rota, Spain. The training was in preparation for Exercise Phoenix Express 2010. Moroccan and Senegalese teams trained primarily on tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with maritime interdiction operations. The goals of the exercise were to increase participating countries' knowledge base and experience level with FAST unit core capabilities and highlight common safety and security concerns in the maritime environment such as illegal immigration, criminal activity, narcotics trafficking, and weapons trafficking. Training and combat facilities at NAVSTA Rota enabled training exercises, such as Phoenix Express, to promote all countries' maritime strategies.
Exercise Phoenix Express 2010, held during May 2010, included 9 African and 9 European nations operating in the Mediterranean focusing on maritime interdiction, maritime domain awareness, information sharing, search and rescue and interoperability. This annual exercise continues to grow and has highlighted the importance of working and training together in our common operating environment. The exercise helps us get to know one another, learn from one another, and develop solutions to common problems together. Twenty countries were expected to participate in the Exercise as either an active participant or observer.
The in port phase of Phoenix Express 10 began in Rota, Spain, and continued in Souda Bay, Greece, and focused on medical training, maritime interdiction operations, helicopter operations and safety, damage control, navigation, deck seamanship, search and rescue, small boat operations and a leadership round table. Ships and personnel involved would then depart Souda Bay and sail into international waters in the central Mediterranean Sea. During the underway portion of Phoenix Express 10, countries involved would track and board suspect vessels carrying suspicious cargo, and maritime patrol aircraft and Automated Identification Systems, along with maritime interdiction operations like search and rescue, and visit, board, search and seizures would be performed.
The USS John L. Hall (FFG 32) took part in Exercise Phoenix Express 10, with the ship's VBSS team completing the training course at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center in Souda Bay, Greece. Boarding teams from Croatia and Malta embarked John L. Hall from 24 to 30 May 2010 for the underway portion of the exercise, which involved ships from Algeria, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
Phoenix Express 2011 was a multi-national maritime exercise, helping sailors from US, North African, and European naval forces to understand better how to perform maritime interdiction operations, used by participant nations in their efforts to deter illicit trafficking at sea. Phoenix Express 11 was a 3-week exercise divided into in-port and underway training phases, designed to enhance regional maritime partnerships. Maritime and land forces from 13 countries were to participate in the international military partnering exercise in the Mediterranean Sea from 23 May to 15 June 2011. The Exercise would serve as a unique training opportunity to enhance each country's ability to work together and to deter illicit trafficking at sea. US units participating in Phoenix Express 2011 included the USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29), and Military Sealift Command ship maritime prepositioning ship USNS LCPL Roy M. Wheat (T-AK 3016) and fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198). Additional US Naval Forces Europe-Africa staff personnel would also participate alongside other international naval forces from Albania, Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey in the exercise.
Phoenix Express 2011 also provided a platform for training in communication, from the command elements down to the teams boarding ships, so that maritime interdiction operations teams would have the information they need to conduct counter-proliferation interdiction operations. This was in support of the aims of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), designed to stop WMD proliferation by promoting proactive information sharing and enabling development of capabilities and authorities to enable coordinated action. During Phoenix Express 2011, the maritime interdiction operations teams from the PSI-endorsing country of Morocco conducted a boarding to interdict a shipment of simulated dual use components on a target ship.
Phoenix Express 2012 was a multinational maritime exercise between Southern European, North African, and US Naval forces designed to improve cooperation among participating nations and help increase safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea. Countries participating in Phoenix Express 12 included Algeria, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. The Exercise officially kicked off on 7 May 2012 and was the seventh annual Phoenix Express exercise to be held. Exercise events during Phoenix Express 12 would be held in-port at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) and aboard the Hellenic navy training ship Aris, while the at-sea training will be conducted aboard various ships. During the in-port portion of training the focus would be on medical and maritime interdiction operations training at NMIOTC, while combined maritime forces pier-side would conduct workshops in helicopter operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, search and rescue, small boat operations and a leadership course. After in-port training is complete, the at-sea portion of Phoenix Express would commence in the Mediterranean Sea. At sea, ships and their personnel would focus on maritime domain awareness using the Automatic Identification System, and include interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center ashore. Combined maritime forces would also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, maritime interdiction operations (to include visit, board, search and seizure and helicopter VBSS), search and rescue, replenishment at sea, and helicopter operations.
Sailors assigned to the USS Simpson participated in a multinational training exercise aboard the Hellenic navy training ship Aris at the NMIOTC in support of exercise Phoenix Express 2012 in Souda Bay, Crete on 12 May 2012. The training included boarding procedures, proper weapons handling, and engaging compliant and non-compliant ships. It also gave the multinational service members the opportunity to train with other countries and learn to work together.
Maritime forces participated in a multinational maritime interdiction operation training exercise at the NMIOTC in Souda Bay, Greece, as part of exercise Phoenix Express 2012 on 10 May 2012. Service members from Moroccan naval vessel Mohamed V (F 611) and USS Simpson received training from Hellenic and US Navy instructors who focused on boarding procedures. Course participants were broken up into teams to practice tactics and techniques they learned including how to handle personnel with weapons.
Service members from European, North African, and US Naval forces participated in a pre-sail conference kickoff for Exercise Phoenix Express 2012 at the NMIOTC in Souda Bay on 16 May 2012. Leadership from US Sixth Fleet, the NMIOTC and the participating ships took part in the event, during which they discussed the at-sea training portion of the exercise. The at-sea portion of Phoenix Express 2012 focused on improving maritime domain awareness and interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center ashore. Combined maritime forces would execute a series of training scenarios exercising force protection measures, boarding procedures, search and rescue, replenishment at sea, and helicopter operations.
Service members from Algeria, Greece, Morocco, Turkey, and the US teamed up aboard the USS Simpson to conduct a mass casualty drill in support of Exercise Phoenix Express 2012 in Souda Bay, Crete on 18 May 2012. The exercise gave participants the opportunity to demonstrate medical techniques they learned during earlier Phoenix Express 2012 training. Participants were required to treat simulated injuries under the supervision of senior medical officers from each country. During the drill, multinational medical officers observed and graded participating service members in a variety of areas including procedure and techniques. The mass casualty drill marked the end of Phoenix Express 2012's land training, as participating ships prepare to get underway to begin the next phase.
Maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States began the tenth iteration of the multinational maritime Exercise Phoenix Express, 17 May 2016. Phoenix Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet facilitated regional exercises. The exercise is part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns. Participating nations in Phoenix Express 2016 include Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States. NATO Shipping Center is also scheduled to participate.
This year's exercise control group will be hosted at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) located in Souda Bay, Greece but training took place throughout the Mediterranean to include North African nations' territorial waters. The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. forces' abilities to combat illegal migration, illicit trafficking, and movement of materials for weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, participating forces worked together to practice procedures of search-and-rescue in cases where vessels are in distress.
Participants of Phoenix Express have opportunities to enhance expertise in a number of areas: boarding techniques, search-and-rescue operations, medical casualty response, MOC to MOC communication, and maritime domain awareness tools. Scenarios focused on the globally-recognized Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) allow endorsing nations of Tunisia and Morocco to develop capabilities to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
A Combined Maritime Operation Center (CMOC), led and comprised of North African navy officers, formed at the NMIOTC to manage the at-sea operations. While the exercise is facilitated by the U.S. Navy, senior leaders from North African navies have prominent roles in the exercise. A Moroccan officer will oversee the exercise control group; a Tunisian officer will oversee the CMOC; and an Algerian officer will oversee a five-ship surface action group participating in the at-sea phase.
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