The waters of the Red Sea weren’t parted, and the event might not have been of biblical proportions, but on Tuesday the Israeli Navy participated in a combined maritime security patrol with the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) in the Red Sea for the first time. Three Israeli vessels and one U.S. Navy warship sailed together in the Gulf of Aqaba as the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has shifted Israel from U.S. European Command to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, effective Sept. 1.
“Our navies are ushering in a new era of expanded cooperation and capacity building,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “We are partnering in new ways, which is essential for preserving security in today’s dynamic maritime environment.”
INS Eliat (601), a Sa’ar 5-class corvette, along with two Israeli Navy patrol boats joined the U.S. Navy’s Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61), while U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft flew overhead. NAVCENT Public Affairs reported that the units conducted air defense, high-value unit defense, small boat operations, and tactical maneuver training.
“Combined patrols like these help maintain regional maritime security and stability,” said Capt. Robert Francis, commodore for NAVCENT’s Task Force 55 which controls U.S. Navy surface assets in the Middle East. “The collaboration has been tremendous. We share a common understanding with our international counterparts that there is strength in unity.”
Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari, head of the Israeli Defense Force naval operations, said the strategic cooperation between the forces is vital for regional security as well as that for the State of Israel.
“The partnership with the Fifth Fleet is a strategic partnership for the security of the region and the security of Israel,” Brig. Gen. Hagari told The Jerusalem Post. “This exercise is the beginning of a cooperation that will expand and increase the circles of defense and security in the maritime space to prevent terrorist acts.”
Change of Operations
This past January, the United States announced it would be moving Israel from U.S. European Command to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility effective Sept. 1. The change offers new opportunities for cooperation among regional navies in the Middle East.
According to NAVCENT, the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab-al-Mandeb. With Israel’s addition, the region is now comprised of 21 countries.
Last month, Israel Air Force pilots flew alongside their counterparts from the United States Air Force Central Command (AFCENT), the first of its kind aerial drill between the two partners. The exercise, dubbed “Desert Eagle,” included the Israeli Air Force’s 133rd Knights of the Twin-Tail Squadron trained with pilots from the U.S. Air Force’s 494th Squadron at the Ovda airbase in southern Israel.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.