The European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) and the US Navy (USN) conducted their first combined naval exercise, both forces reported in late March.
In a statement published on 27 March, EUNAVFOR said the exercise took place within the framework of the EU and the United States (US) agreeing to patrol together and exercise high seas freedom of navigation. The plan to conduct the exercise was put in place in December 2022, during the last round of the ‘EU-US High-Level Consultations on the Indo-Pacific’ process. It also is part of wider EUNAVFOR/USN co-operation plans to improve regional maritime security through developing practical co-operation at sea.
The two-day exercise in the Arabian Sea involved the Armada Espanola’s F 80 (Oliver Hazard Perry) Santa María-class frigate SPS Reina Sofia (F 84) and the Italian Navy’s lead FREMM multi-role frigate ITS Carlo Bergamini (F 590). These two ships have been deployed on EUNAVFOR’s Operation ‘Atalanta’ Horn of Africa maritime security mission. They were joined by the USN’s DDG 51 Flight I Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60).
According to the EUNAVFOR statement, alongside the focus on patrolling and freedom of navigation activities, the exercise included “professional exchanges on boarding procedures, ship navigation, and training, designed to improve interoperability and integration”.
In a USN statement published on 24 March, Paul Hamilton’s commanding officer Commander Jake Ferrari said “We improved our overall ability to integrate and operate together as a multinational maritime force.” “The experience was extremely valuable for me and my crew,” he added.
Paul Hamilton is currently deployed to the US 5th Fleet area of operations, which covers the Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Northern Indian Ocean, as well as three strategically significant maritime choke points found in this region – namely the Straits of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Straits, and the Suez Canal. The ship’s integration with EUNAVFOR forces reflects US 5th Fleet’s mission, which is to ensure maritime security and stability across the region.
by Dr. Lee Willett, London