The U.S. Navy’s first joint, high-speed vessel, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1), participated with 12 West African and European partner nations in the fourth year of Exercise Saharan Express in the waters off West Africa, March 10-14.
Exercise Saharan Express is one of four African regional exercises, called the Express series exercises, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, as a demonstration and test of the skills developed as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) and ongoing efforts to increase maritime domain awareness.
During the exercise, Spearhead played the role of a suspect vessel, which provided participating nations at multiple maritime operations centers (MOCs), located in various areas, the opportunity to track the ship’s movement. The communication between the MOCs mirrors real-world situations where regional information sharing plays a vital role in successful operations.
Other exercise participants engaged in pier side and underway scenarios such as illegal fishing and counter-illicit trafficking aboard partner vessels.
“Our engagements with these partner nations help employ techniques that will help us all deter illegal activities in these waters,” said Navy Capt. Marc Lederer, the military detachment mission commander aboard Spearhead.
Improving cooperation, tactical expertise and information sharing among participating nations in order to increase safety and security at sea is the overarching exercise goal for the 13 partner nation participants in this year’s exercise.
“It is always an exciting opportunity to engage with these nations, working hand-in-hand for a safer maritime presence,” said Lt. Cmdr. Steve Murdock, the military detachment’s operations officer aboard Spearhead.
Spearhead, which is on its maiden deployment, is deployed in the waters off West and Central Africa as part of Africa Partnership Station.
U.S. 6th Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts a full range of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation missions in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other parties in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.
Press Release, March 18, 2014; Image: Wikimedia