Royal Saudi Naval Forces assumes command of Gulf-based IMSC task force

US Navy
(From right) Commodore Saleh Aloufi (Royal Saudi Naval Forces, and Commander CTF ‘Sentinel’), Vice Admiral Brad Cooper (Commander US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces), and Commodore Peter Laughton (UK Royal Navy, and Commander IMSC) salute during the ‘Sentinel’ change-of-command ceremony at IMSC Headquarters, Manama, Bahrain, on 27 August. (Credit: US Navy)

Saudi Arabia has assumed command of Coalition Task Force (CTF) ‘Sentinel’, the operational task force that supports the Gulf-based International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).

This is the first time that a regional navy – namely, the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) – has taken command of CTF ‘Sentinel’, a task force that plays a key role in regional security.

“This change of command ushered in the turnover of CTF ‘Sentinel’s’ leadership to regional partners,” the US Naval Forces Central Command’s public affairs office said, in a statement published on 27 August.

IMSC was established originally in 2019, to provide maritime patrol activity to reassure commercial shipping and deter threats to such shipping following a spate of attacks on merchant vessels sailing through and anchored around the Straits of Hormuz. IMSC’s area of operations stretches from the Gulf, down through the Straits of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman, across the Gulf of Aden, and back up through the Bab al-Mandab Strait into the southern part of the Red Sea.

The current list of IMSC members numbers 11 countries: Albania, Bahrain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Saudi Arabia, the Seychelles, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Originally, the US Navy (USN) took command, before handing over to the UK Royal Navy (RN) in January 2020. The RN has since maintained command of both IMSC headquarters and CTF ‘Sentinel’, until the RSNF took command of ‘Sentinel’ on 27 August.

Underlining the multinational collaboration that underpins IMSC outputs, the RN retains command of IMSC at a headquarters level.

In a handover ceremony at IMSC headquarters in Manama, Bahrain, Commodore Peter Laughton – the RN officer commanding IMSC – said “It is entirely right that the task force transitions to regional leadership …. CTF ‘Sentinel’ exemplifies the collective power of IMSC’s multinational partnerships.”

On taking operational command, the RSNF’s Commodore Saleh Aloufi said “I look forward to working with our multinational team to ensure that the free flow of commerce is protected throughout the region.”

by Dr. Lee Willet