Joint training exercises between US and Egyptian forces, dubbed "Bright Star 2018", kicked off Saturday (September 8th) and will continue through September 20th, Egyptian army spokesman Col. Tamer al-Refaie said.
The military training exercises are taking place at the Mohammed Naguib Military Base combat training complex near the northern city of Alexandria.
Forces from Egypt, the US, Greece, Jordan, Britain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Italy and France are participating, with 16 other countries attending as observers.
In a speech delivered at the opening ceremony, the commander of the Egyptian contingent described the exercise as a means to strengthen ties in the area of military co-operation among the participating countries.
The exercise also will facilitate the exchange of expertise in the use of technologically advanced weapons and equipment, he said.
US Air Force Maj. Gen. Jon Mott, US Central Command (CENTCOM) exercises director, expressed his deep appreciation to the Egyptian armed forces for hosting the Bright Star exercises for the second consecutive year.
Thanking Egypt for its positive reception and hospitality, he said the US considers Egypt one of its most important strategic partners in the region.
"We are all stronger as a team, and we cannot do the work we do without our partners," he said. "I am honoured to represent more than 800 American soldiers participating in Bright Star 2018, which builds on the great achievements of previous years."
The joint exercises are a means to strengthen relations and "send a clear message to those who seek to undermine our countries", Mott said.
They contribute to the preparation and training of forces and demonstrate the value of joint action, he said, adding that they represent a "golden opportunity to find the best ways to counter threats to regional security".
Developing joint operations
This year's Bright Star exercises aim to develop joint operations between the Egyptian armed forces and the armies of Egypt's allies, the Egyptian armed forces said in a September 8th statement.
They also facilitate planning for the conduct of joint naval and aerial operations and the conduct of training on asymmetric combat tactics, the statement said.
Training activities include the establishment of joint command centres and training ranges for participating naval and air forces, and various types of training for special forces.
They also include a symposium where senior commanders will be able to exchange training and operational expertise, and the conduct of live-fire exercises in co-operation with participating air forces.
CENTCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel on Monday inspected the participating forces as part of a multi-day official visit to Egypt, accompanied by the commander of Egypt's northern military zone.
Egyptian Defence Minister Gen. Mohammed Zaki also met with Votel and his accompanying delegation.
Zaki expressed his pride in the partnership between the armed forces of Egypt and the US, and expressed hope that there will be more joint co-operation between the two militaries in all areas.
Votel praised the successes achieved by the Egyptian armed forces in fighting terrorism, and affirmed the depth of the strategic partnership and co-operation between Egypt and the US.
Contribution to peace-keeping
The Bright Star exercises have contributed to preparing Egyptian and US forces to deal with a range of security and counter-terrorism challenges, security affairs expert Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha told Al-Mashareq.
"The military power the Egyptian army contributes to the maintenance of regional peace and security is a main reason behind the co-operation with the US and a large number of allied countries in the conduct of joint military exercises," he said.
In every iteration of the military exercises, the latest military technological advances are tested and assessed for their suitability for the various combat arenas, Okasha said.
The Bright Star exercises this year focus on security co-operation, counter-terrorism and training on different threat scenarios, using both conventional and asymmetric warfare, he said.
They include Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) in the area of counter-terrorism between the US Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha and Egyptian Saiqa (Thunderbolt) Forces, al-Refaie said in a statement.
JCET aims to standardise operational concepts, conduct training on joint teamwork and prepare security forces to implement planned future phases.
It includes practical and theoretical lectures on counter-terrorism, methods of dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), training on airborne and seaborne landing operations, offensive diving and combat medic operations.
Confronting terror threats
"The training comes at a time when the world is facing asymmetric threats, especially from terrorist groups," said Nasser Military Academy advisor Maj. Gen. Hesham al-Halabi.
Much of the military training during the exercises focuses on dealing with terror threats, he told Al-Mashareq.
A number of countries are taking part in Bright Star 2018 as participants or observers, he said, including African countries, to exchange expertise and strengthen joint co-operation to confront regional security challenges.
The exercises will help them co-ordinate counter-terrorism efforts, he said.
"Egypt and the US have for decades been allies and partners in maintaining the stability of the region," al-Halabi said.
"One of the key objectives of the exercises is to have participating countries share their expertise and the various counter-terrorism tools they use," said Maj. Gen. Nasr Salem, military and strategic expert at Nasser Military Academy.
Terrorism poses a threat to all countries, even if no attacks have taken place on their soil, he told Al-Mashareq.
The exchange of experiences and expertise has become the basis for success "in protecting the security of countries from the destructive attacks carried out by terrorist groups", he added.