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Israel to join massive US-led naval exercise in Red Sea for first time

Participants in 5th Fleet drill include countries with which Israel has no formal ties, like Saudi Arabia, Oman; IDF says drill will ‘advance our regional cooperation’

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

The Israeli Navy trains with foreign navies in response to a simulated massive earthquake that strikes northern Israel in the 'Mighty Waves 2019' naval exercise in August 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. The Israeli Navy trains with foreign navies in response to a simulated massive earthquake that strikes northern Israel in the 'Mighty Waves 2019' naval exercise in August 2019. (Israel Defense Forces/File)

The Israeli Navy will take part in a massive American-led naval exercise, which kicked off on Monday, alongside dozens of other nations, including some with which Israel does not have formal ties.

According to the US Navy, more than 9,000 people from 60 militaries will take part in the International Maritime Exercise, known by its acronym IMX, which will focus on unmanned naval systems and the use of artificial intelligence.

Participants include a number of countries that Israel does not have formal ties with, such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, as well as several countries with which Israel recently normalized relations, like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which hosts the US 5th Fleet.

“The Missile Ship Flotilla and the Underwater Missions Unit will train with the American 5th Fleet in the area of the Red Sea, as part of the overall exercise,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

“The exercise will strengthen our regional security and advance our regional cooperation.”

This will be Israel’s first time participating in the drill.

Representatives from various militaries and international organizations attend the opening ceremony of the US military’s 5th Fleet’s International Maritime Exercise in Bahrain on January 31, 2022. (U.S. Army/Natianna Strachen)

The exercise began on Monday and was scheduled to run for nearly three weeks, ending on February 17, according to the US military.

The Israeli Navy will participate in the portions of the exercise being held in the Red Sea. Some parts of the drill will also take place in the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, and the northern Indian Ocean.

The biennial drill was launched in 2012 and has become “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,” the US Navy said in a press release on Monday.

“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,” according to the US military.

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.

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