Maritime forces from North Africa, Europe, and the United States concluded exercise Phoenix Express 2016 with closing ceremonies in Souda Bay, Greece, on 27 May.
Phoenix Express, sponsored and facilitated by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), is designed to improve regional cooperation between partner nations, increase maritime domain awareness, information sharing practices, and operational capabilities to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Phoenix Express is a great opportunity for us to work operationally and tactically in the maritime for the safety and security in the Mediterranean. At no time is it more important to be aware of what is going on in the maritime environment. The best part is to bring our North African and European partners together with U.S. allies to work on safety and security in the Mediterranean,” said Capt. Bryan Durkee, Commodore, Task Force (CTF) 67.
“The team working has grown up day after day between the participants. This is my 3rd time participating in Phoenix express and we improved our operations between the CMOC, ECG, and at sea,” said Maj. Mourad Rebiai, Algerian Navy.
This year’s Exercise Control Group (ECG) and Combined Maritime Operations Center (CMOC) were hosted at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC) located in Souda Bay, Greece but training took place throughout the Mediterranean Sea to include North African nations’ territorial waters.
The at-sea portion of the exercise tested North African, European, and U.S. forces’ abilities to combat sea-based illicit activity. Scenarios focused on irregular migration, illicit trafficking, and movement of materials for weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Participating forces conducted 27 boarding in five days at sea. Search and rescue, visit, board, search and seizure, and medical response drills were completed.
Information sharing between CMOC, ECG, and Surface Action Group (SAG) was practiced. Scenario focused on the globally-recognized Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) allowed endorsing nations of Tunisia and Morocco to develop capabilities to detect and disrupt the delivery of materials used to build and develop weapons of mass destruction.
Participating nations in Phoenix Express 2016 included Algeria, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States, as well as representatives from the NATO Shipping Center, the EU Border Management Agency “FRONTEX,” and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three CNE-CNA/C6F-facilitated regional exercises part of a comprehensive strategy under Africa Partnership Station to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns.