Maritime forces from Europe, North Africa, and the United States began the 14th iteration of the multinational maritime exercise Phoenix Express 2018 on 3 May with an opening ceremony at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Center (NMIOTC) in Souda Bay, Greece.
Phoenix Express, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F), is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities in order to enhance efforts to promote safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Phoenix Express 2018 offers an excellent forum to exercise and assess maritime operations,” said Cmdr. Jon Sunderland, Phoenix Express 2018 officer in tactical command. “Across multiple countries, scenarios offer the opportunity to execute operational planning, perfect information sharing, and employ the Rule of Law.”
This year’s exercise control group will be hosted at the NMIOTC, but training will take place throughout the Mediterranean Sea, to include territorial waters of North African nations.
The at-sea portion of the exercise will test North African, European, and U.S. maritime forces’ abilities to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials, the US Navy said.. Additionally, participating forces will work together to practice search and rescue procedures in response to vessels in distress.
Phoenix Express exercise director, Capt. Amy Egeli said, “Phoenix Express fosters trust between participant nations by promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. These established and tested partnerships will help us overcome the challenges that threaten freedom and security in the maritime domain.”
Nations scheduled to participate in Phoenix Express 2018 include Algeria, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States. The Algerian Navy, for instance, is taking part in the exercise with its locally built corvette Rais Hassen Barbier.
Exercise Phoenix Express is one of three CNE-CNA/C6F-facilitated regional exercises part of a comprehensive strategy to provide collaborative opportunities amongst African forces and international partners that addresses maritime security concerns, the US Navy said.