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NEWS | Feb. 18, 2022

Large-Scale International Exercise in Middle East, Africa Concludes

By NAVCENT Public Affairs and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet

Maritime partners from 60 nations and international organizations concluded the Middle East region’s largest maritime exercise Feb. 17 at a ceremony in Manama, Bahrain.

International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022, an 18-day biennial naval training event, was led by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. It combined with annual exercise Cutlass Express (CE) led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean.

More than 9,000 personnel and nearly 50 ships operating across two regions participated in IMX/CE 2022. The event was also the largest unmanned exercise in the world, involving more than 80 unmanned systems from 10 nations.

"IMX/CE 2022 provided a unique opportunity to navies from across the globe, maritime organizations and communities to demonstrate global resolve to preserve the rules-based international order,” said Pakistan Navy Commodore Vaqar Muhammad, deputy commander of the exercise.

Training evolutions during the combined exercise spanned across the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and North Indian Ocean. Participating naval forces divided into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, and Oman.

“These skills, developed during IMX/CE 2022, can make a lasting impact on regional security,” said Rear Adm. Jeffrey Spivey, vice commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet and director, maritime partnership program, NAVEUR-NAVAF. “The work we have done here can directly contribute to our combined ability to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”

IMX/CE 2022 incorporated training operations on mine countermeasures; visit, board, search, and seizure; and mass casualty response, among others. The exercise established a combined task force to incorporate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence. IMX/CE 2022 included flight training and ship gunnery and passing exercises, and an international senior leadership summit before concluding with the closing ceremony.

Maj. Khalid Al Ali of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, who served at the exercise’s operations center in Bahrain, praised IMX/CE 2022 for bringing so many partner naval forces together to train. “We found new ways to upgrade our capabilities and use our equipment in real world conditions,” he said.

The commercial shipping industry also participated. IMX/CE 2022 set up a joint shipping coordination center led by a multinational team to interface between naval and merchant vessels.

Cmdr. Jeorn Loeffler of the German Navy, a shipping coordination team member, praised the unity among participants. "We are united from every continent, and we are united at sea," he said.

IMX/CE 2022 was the seventh iteration of IMX since its establishment in 2012.