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Israel Joins U.S.-Led Naval Exercise Alongside Saudi Arabia, Oman

(January 31-February 17, 2022)

For the first time, Israel is taking part in the U.S.-led International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022, an 18-day biennial naval training event led by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, which combines with exercise Cutlass Express (CE) led annually by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean. Israeli naval forces joined those from more than 50 nations, including Saudi Arabia and Oman, two counties with which it has no diplomatic relations.

“The Israel Navy will join 60 naval fleets for the US Navy-led ‘IMX’ International Naval Exercise,” the IDF said. “For the first time, our Flotilla 3 & Underwater Warfare Unit will train with the US Fifth Fleet in the Red Sea. We look forward to strengthening security & global cooperation.”

The combined training includes 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 partner nations and international organizations operating across two regions.

“This level of representation demonstrates shared resolve in preserving the rules-based international order,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “This is a unique opportunity to increase our capabilities and interoperability while strengthening maritime ties.”

IMX/CE 2022 is not only the largest multinational naval exercise in the Middle East but also the largest unmanned exercise in the world with more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 nations participating.

His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister stressed the importance of protecting international maritime traffic from threats that adversely impact global trade, thanking the U.S. for their role in this regard, and stressed the need to unify international efforts to further strengthen regional maritime security.

The exercise will allow participating forces to test unmanned systems and artificial intelligence in different training scenarios and ultimately apply the lessons learned to future real-world operations. Training will also focus on enhancing capabilities in command and control, sea control, maritime security operations, and mine countermeasures.

International naval forces participating in IMX/CE 2022 are divided into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, and Oman. A combined task force called Task Force X was also established for conducting portions of the exercise focused on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence integration.

Sources: “60 Nations, International Organizations Kick Off Largest Maritime Exercise in Middle East,” U.S. Navy Office of Information, (January 31, 2022).
Anna Ahronheim, “Israel participates in large scale US-led naval exercise alongside Saudi, Yemen,” Jerusalem Post, (February 1, 2022).
Lisa Barrington, “Israel participates in huge U.S. Mideast naval exercise alongside Saudi, Oman,” Reuters, (February 2, 2022).

Photo: His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister of Bahrain, center, receives a brief on the GHOST 4 unmanned aerial vehicle at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Jan. 31. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Mark Thomas Mahmod)