The aim of Exercise Saharan Express, which began in 2011, is to develop participant nations' capabilities to monitor and enforce their own territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Should these participants meet in the future to conduct combined peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, people, or weapons in the Atlantic Ocean, they will be better able to respond and work together. This exercise is one of four regional maritime exercises in Africa, an international security cooperation initiative facilitated by Commander, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Its aim is to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.
Exercise Saharan Express 2011 was a multinational exercise, which focused on counter narcotics and proliferation training and was a part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. Saharan Express 2011 brought together counter narcotics interdiction; counter proliferation; visit, board, search, and seizure; and search and rescue training scenarios to develop and hone existing methods used by each country participating in the exercise.
The USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) arrived in Dakar, Senegal on 21 April 2011 for its second multinational exercise during Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, Exercise Saharan Express 11. During the exercise, Robert G. Bradley Sailors would conduct search and rescue operations with the Cape Verde navy. The ships crew would also conduct office calls, give tours of the ship, hold a reception onboard, and conduct a military to military community relations project with Cape Verde navy. The visit, board, search, and seizure training exercise portion of Saharan Express 11 took place aboard the USS Robert G. Bradley, with the ship's VBSS team acting as observers and role players. This scenario provided the Cape Verdean Navy with a sizeable threat vessel to closely mimic a real world interdiction challenge. At sea security and communications were necessary for an effective VBSS team, and these skills had to be trained frequently to remain effective.
The USS Robert G. Bradley completed its participation in Exercise Saharan Express 11 with the Cape Verdean Navy on 27 April 2011.
Military and civilian maritime professionals from West Africa, Europe, and the United States finalized a challenging training agenda for exercise Saharan Express 2012 on 14 March 2012. This week's final planning conference at the Counternarcotics and Maritime Security (COSMAR) interagency operations center culminates previous months of close coordination to plan complex maritime interdiction operation scenarios to be executed during spring 2012. The finalized maritime interdiction operations scenarios were visit, board, search and seizure drills; search and rescue scenarios; medical casualty drills; radio communication drills; and information management practice techniques. These scenarios were scheduled to be executed off the coasts of Cape Verde, Mauritania, Senegal, and The Gambia, and would be monitored and controlled by multiple Maritime Operations Centers in the region. The aim of Exercise Saharan Express 2012 was to develop participant nations' capabilities to monitor and enforce their own territorial waters and exclusive economic zones. Should these participants meet in the future to conduct combined peacekeeping or humanitarian operations, or to counter trafficking in drugs, people, or weapons in the Atlantic Ocean, they would be better able to respond and work together.
Exercise Saharan Express 2012, focused on improving communications and building relationships of West African countries to counter common maritime threats, began in Dakar, Senegal, on 23 April 2012, when 12 countries' navies, coast guards, and army paramedic teams gathered to kick off the maritime training and exercises with a press conference and pre-sail conference, introducing the 10 ship commanders and participants. The 12 nations that participated in the second Saharan Express were Cape Verde, represented by CV Guardiao; France, represented by FS Tonnere; The Gambia, represented by GNS Taipai; Cote d'Ivoire; Liberia; Mauritania, represented by Limam Elhadrami; Morocco, represented by RMN Bir Anzarane; Senegal, represented by SN Popnguine, SN Ex Conejera and SN Baye Sogul; Sierra Leone; Spain, represented by ESPS Vencedorea; the United Kingdom represented by HMS Dauntless, and the United States, represented by USS Simpson (FFG 56).
Sailors aboard the USS Simpson concluded their participation in exercise Saharan Express 2012 while underway off the coast of West Africa on 30 April 2012. During Saharan Express 12, Simpson acted as a target ship while crewmembers set up different scenarios of illegal fishing, illicit drug trafficking and first aid medical response for the other nation's visit, board, search and seizure teams to board and treat the exercise as they would in an actual situation. While medical and boarding training was conducted in Dakar, Senegal, the underway portion was controlled by the COSMAR interagency operations center in Praia, Cape Verde.
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