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News | Feb. 4, 2021

Saudi, UK, U.S. Forces complete Exercise Nautical Defender 21

By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Public Affairs Office

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY BAHRAIN (Jan. 29, 2021) – Forces assigned to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF), UK Maritime Component Command (UKMCC) and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) conducted tri-lateral maritime exercise Nautical Defender 21 (ND 21) in the Arabian Gulf, Jan. 20-29.

ND 21 is the capstone in a series of multi-national maritime security exercises designed to broaden levels of cooperation, support long-term regional security, and enhance military-to-military interoperability between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UK and the U.S. 

“This was the largest Nautical Defender exercise we’ve participated in thus far with significant contributions by all participants,” said Capt. Christopher Gilbertson, commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 50 and Commander, Task Force (CTF) 55, who led the exercise. “With such a large, complex force, we were able to conduct in depth training across a wide variety of skill sets.”

To expand upon existing year-round interoperability training, participating units conducted multiple simulated scenarios, practicing maritime security, coastal harbor defense, counter-unmanned aerial systems, shipboard gunnery, high value unit escort, small arms, diving and mine clearance skills.

The exercise also marked the first time that an air operations in support of maritime surface warfare (AOMSW) drill has been integrated into a named exercise between the three nations, and the seventh time NAVCENT has conducted such a drill with joint and coalition partners.

These drills feature crews aboard various surface platforms, such as destroyers or patrol craft, directing aircraft to conduct fires against simulated fast attack craft attempting to attack coalition forces. 

“Our coalition forces are becoming increasingly more flexible and formidable as we involve AOMSW in more and more combined training opportunities,” said Gilbertson. 

With a focus on enhancing interoperability across partner nations, ND 21 participants fielded a variety of forces, including a guided-missile destroyer, mine countermeasures ships, patrol craft, maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft, fixed wing fighter aircraft, helicopters, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians, marine platoons, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) teams and additional supporting staff.  

 “The increased scale for this iteration of Nautical Defender shows just how profoundly our mutual capabilities are growing as we train alongside regional and coalition partners,” said Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). “With steps like this toward sustained interoperability and a long-term goal of interchangeability, we will continue to build a powerful combined force, capable of defending against any threat to freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce in this region’s critical waterways.”

The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 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 expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, visit