Personnel from European, North African and U.S. Naval forces began preparing for the underway segment of Phoenix Express Exercise 2014 (PE14) by standing up the maritime operations center in Sigonella, May 26.
Planners from 10 countries have begun tracking ships leaving ports and integrating logistics for the start of the at-sea training portion of PE14, which is in its eighth iteration.
“The maritime operations center is a critical center of gravity as the nations participating in this year’s exercise plan and integrate maritime interdiction operations at-sea, not far from our location here in Sigonella,” said Capt. James Hajj, director, Phoenix Express 2014. “It is critical that we share best practices and learn to work together both at-sea and in an operations center setting.”
Watchstanders are using a state-of-the-art maritime tracking system named SeaVision. This system tracks and identifies ships through both land-based and satellite assets as they traverse the Mediterranean Sea. One of the key training elements of PE14 involves understanding how to optimize SeaVision and ensure every nation knows how to uniformly track ships and identify them in the same manner as they sail across multiple waterways and ports.
Another important capability staged at the maritime operations center and being used throughout the exercise is Same Time chat which allows ships and exercise participants to talk, on-line, in “real-time.”
“As a communication officer I know the importance of communication and that it is important during an operation of this size,” said Italian navy Lt.j.g. Antonio Morciano, logistics and communications officer. “This real time system allows everybody involved in operations to reach anyone at anytime, instantly.”
Participants are learning how to use this logistical advantage as a means to ask for something as complex as boarding vessel information or simply to ask how or when to move material or personnel from ship-to-ship. All participants were trained for close to a week on the system and have learned to use uniform acronyms and converse in English when they use the web based chat network.
The at-sea portion of PE14 focuses on improving maritime domain awareness and interaction between forces afloat and the combined maritime operations center ashore.
Combined maritime forces will execute a series of training scenarios that exercise force protection measures, boarding procedures, search and rescue, replenishment-at-sea, and helicopter operations.
“This year’s exercise is off to a great start and we’re all looking forward to learning from each other in the coming week as we work as a team through real world and simulated exercise challenges,” said Hajj. “If the camaraderie I’ve seen here in the maritime operations center is anything like the camaraderie we’ll see during at-sea training, this year’s exercise will be a tremendous success.”
PE14, a multinational maritime exercise between Southern European, North African and U.S. Naval forces, is designed to improve cooperation among participating nations and help increase safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
Participating countries in PE14 include Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States.
Press Release, May 28, 2014, Image: U.S. Sixth Fleet