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Sea Saber

Exercise Sea Saber is the fifth (the third maritime exercise) in a series of ten exercises to take place worldwide to improve the sharing of information and to demonstrate the resolve of Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) participants to prevent WMD proliferation. Countries with assets participating in Exercise Sea Saber include Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other PSI participants will be involved as observers.

Sea Saber was the first PSI exercise led by the United States, and the first to be conducted in the Arabian Sea, a key region of proliferation concern. With 12 of the 16 partner nations involved, it included the largest number of nations to participate in any PSI exercise to date, including both military and law enforcement assets.

The exercise began on January 17 and ran through January 23, 2004.

Sea Saber focused on one contingency, the interdiction of a maritime shipment on the high seas. Participants practiced intercepting, boarding and searching vessels thought to be illegally trafficking WMD or related materials. The exercise climaxed in a flag-consent, non-compliant boarding by partner forces, working within the boundaries of international law to legally board the suspected ship, inspect and seize WMD related cargo.

The actual operation, called a Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS), is strictly choreographed. USNS Saturn (T-AFS 10) played the role of Motor Vessel Sea Cluster, a civilian cargo ship suspected of transporting WMD. After leaving port in the northern Arabian Gulf, the suspicious vessel was tracked more than 1,200 miles into the Arabian Sea by a closely coordinated effort of partner ships and aircraft. Permission was requested from the ship's country of origin to board and search the vessel. After permission was received, the partnership forces went into action.

Spanish Special Operations Forces, working in conjunction with elements of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Group and Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 3 Detachment 1 (EODMU 3 Det. 1) aboard USS Peleliu (LHA 5), were tasked with conducting the VBSS.

The United States contributed staff members from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/ Commander, U.S. Fifth Fleet, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 1 staff, ESG 1 ships Peleliu and USS Port Royal (CG 73), the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, both Navy and Marine Corps Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel, Office of Naval Intelligence personnel, a U.S. Coast Guard law enforcement detachment, P-3 and C-130 aircraft, Saturn and various logistical support.

France sent members of their Task Force 150 staff; Italy, ITS Espero (F 576); Spain, SPS Victoria (F 82) and special operations forces; and the United Kingdom, HMS Norfolk (F230) and HMS St. Albans (F 83) and NIMROD maritime patrol aircraft.

HMAS Melbourne and the P-3C Orion detachment deployed to the Middle East area of operations participated in the US-led exercise, Sea Saber, in the Arabian Sea.

The Australian forces were involved in the collection, analysis and integration of intelligence and operational resources to support the detection, location and interception of a merchant vessel suspected of carrying WMD related equipment.

The Singapore vessel, RSS Endurance participated as both a compliant and non-compliant vessel for boarding teams.

Sea Saber was specifically designed as a cooperative exercise to enhance interoperability among multi-national forces in maritime interdiction operations.

Denmark, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Turkey participated as observers.

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