Israeli Navy First Time in US Navy-led Int’ Maritime Exercise

The 18-day biennial International Naval Exercise (IMX) led by the US Naval Forces Central Command, in which Israel’s Navy participated for the first time, concluded on last week. Several countries under US hegemony that recently normalized ties with Israel also took part in the US Fifth Fleet’s drill, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Bahrain. Several others who do not have formal ties are also participating, including Bangladesh, Comoros, Djibouti, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. Egypt and Jordan also participated.

The International Naval Exercise (IMX) led by the US Naval Forces Central Command (Photo: Israeli army)

The US Fifth Fleet’s area of operations encompasses 2.5 million square miles, 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-el-Mandeb.

Led by US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) along with US Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean, IMX was described by NAVCENT as the “largest unmanned exercise in the world” with more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 countries participating.

Israel formally moved from US European Command to CENTCOM in September, and since then military officials have been meeting regularly. Cooper has met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi at least three times in Israel in the past six months. Israeli troops have held several drills with CENTCOM, the United States Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) and NAVCENT in recent months in the south of the county, including one in November with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the Red Sea.

Though Israel and the US Navy have worked closely together for decades, a senior US officer told The Jerusalem Post in Bahrain at the beginning of the drill that “the Abraham Accord signing and the shift to CENTCOM by Israel from EUCOM and now us taking advantage of that orientation to strengthen maritime security – those two things didn’t exist before and they exist now, and we will take advantage of that.” In November, the Israeli Navy participated in a 5th Fleet-led exercise in the Red Sea, alongside the UAE and Bahrain in what Israeli officials said was meant to serve as a response to recent attacks by Iran against Israeli naval assets.