The international maritime exercise Phoenix Express 2016 was kicked off May 17, in the Mediterranean.
Navies from Europe, North Africa, and the United States gathered to begin the 10th iteration of the exercise.
Phoenix Express is sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. It is designed to improve regional cooperation, increase maritime domain awareness information-sharing practices, and operational capabilities to enhance efforts to achieve safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea.
This year’s exercise control group will be hosted at the NATO Maritime Interdiction Operations Training Center (NMIOTC) located in Souda Bay, Greece, but training will take place throughout the Mediterranean to include North African nations’ territorial waters.
Participating nations in Phoenix Express 2016 include Algeria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey and the United States. NATO Shipping Center is also scheduled to participate.
The at-sea portion of the exercise will test North African, European, and U.S. forces’ abilities to combat illegal migration, illicit trafficking, and movement of materials for weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, participating forces will work together to practice procedures of search-and-rescue in cases where vessels are in distress.
Participants of Phoenix Express will have opportunities to enhance expertise in a number of areas: boarding techniques, search-and-rescue operations, medical casualty response, MOC to MOC communication, and maritime domain awareness tools.
A Combined Maritime Operation Center (CMOC), led and comprised of North African navy officers, will form at NMIOTC to manage at-sea operations.
While the exercise is facilitated by the U.S. Navy, senior leaders from North African navies have prominent roles in the exercise. A Moroccan officer will oversee the exercise control group; a Tunisian officer will oversee the CMOC; and an Algerian officer will oversee a five-ship surface action group participating in the at-sea phase.
U.S. units participating include the dive and rescue salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51), and the USS Gravely (DDG 107). Additionally, medical and maritime interdiction operations specialists will assist participating partner nation units during the exercise.