Phoenix Express 2012 (PE12), a multi-national exercise between Southern European, North African and U.S. Naval forces, officially kicked off at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operation Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, Crete, on Monday.
PE12 is an at-sea maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among participating nations to help increase maritime safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
“This is the seventh year for Phoenix Express, and it is one of four African regional ‘Express’ series exercises that are designed to test skills obtained from participating in bilateral and Africa Partnership Station (APS) training in a regional maritime exercise,” said Lt. Chase Ackerman, PE12 exercise planner. “One of the goals of PE12 is to build communication between North African and European partners so that there is a stronger united force in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time the training provided will help enhance maritime security.”
Exercise events during PE12 will be held in-port at the NMITOC and aboard the Hellenic navy training ship Aris, while the at-sea training will be conducted aboard various ships.
During the in-port portion of training the focus will be on medical and maritime interdiction operations (MIO) training at NMIOTC, while combined maritime forces pier-side will conduct workshops in helicopter operations and safety, damage control and firefighting, deck seamanship, navigation, search and rescue (SAR), small boat operations and a leadership course.
After in-port training is complete, the at-sea portion of PE12 will commence in the Mediterranean Sea.
At sea, ships and their personnel will focus on maritime domain awareness (MDA) using the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and include interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center (CMOC) ashore. Combined maritime forces will also execute a series of scenarios exercising force protection measures, MIO – to include visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) and helicopter VBSS (HVBSS) – SAR, replenishment at sea and helicopter operations.
“Our purpose in the NMIOTC, besides hosting the exercise, is to provide all the necessary training, and with U.S. assistance we can help make the command boarding teams better for their maritime interdiction operations,” said Hellenic air force Lt. Col. Lampinos Lamprinakis, deputy education training director for the NMIOTC. “I believe we have had a smooth start to everything and I see that everyone is ready and willing to work together.”
Participating and observing countries in PE12 include Algeria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States.