International Maritime Exercise 2019 (IMX 19), a multinational exercise featuring assets and personnel from more than 50 partner nations and seven international organizations, concluded Nov. 14.
IMX 19 demonstrated the international community’s resolve in maintaining regional security and stability, freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The exercise also served to improve interoperability among maritime security partners.
This year’s iteration of IMX was the largest to date, making it the second largest maritime exercise in the world. More than 5,000 personnel, 40-plus vessels, 34 visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams, nearly 20 aircraft and 18 explosive ordnance disposal teams participated in the dynamic exercise, spanning from the Suez Canal south to the Bab-al-Mandeb, through the Strait of Hormuz and into the North Arabian Gulf.
IMX was first conducted in in 2012 and held regularly since then.
Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, explained at the start of the exercise that IMX 19 was the most dynamic one to date.
“This year’s iteration is the largest yet, expanding in size and geography, including all essential elements of maritime security operations,” said Malloy. “We’ve grown participation by about 20 nations, are covering an unprecedented amount of ground in the region, and our multinational team is taking part in and leading more tactical scenarios than ever before.”
Vice Adm. Malloy also stated that multinational exercises such as IMX 19 strengthen partnerships with nations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility (AOR) and beyond; relationships that are critical to mission success.
“IMX is an important demonstration of global commitment to freedom of navigation and the free flow of maritime commerce in this critical region,” said Malloy. “I’m proud that we have participation from nations all over the world, especially our regional partners in leadership positions of multiple task forces. Stability and security in the maritime domain is a shared goal of all nations.”
This year’s exercise consisted of four phases: staff training, table-top and classroom exercises, fleet training exercise (FTX), and force redeployment.
The FTX phase played out over four geographic task forces and ashore and afloat operations including air, surface and underwater mine countermeasures, maritime security operations, coordinated with industry and commercial shipping, and harbor force protection scenarios incorporating unmanned underwater vehicles and marine mammals.
Additionally, a distinguished visitor’s day was held with 27 civilian and military leaders from 15 nations visiting ships involved in the exercise to see first-hand the emerging technologies and capabilities incorporated in IMX 19.
“It is the ultimate coalition operation of all,” Malloy said during the visit. “And more than ever, the security of the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea is being managed and capably led by the [regional] navies.”
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The region is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.