Security

US naval units engage in advanced training in Gulf waters

By Sultan al-Barei in Riyadh

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US Navy MH-60S Sea Hawks assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan operate over Karan Island, Saudi Arabia, during routine sustainment training on May 27th. [US Marine Corps]

Recurrent training exercises and manoeuvers by US and Saudi forces in Gulf waters have enabled them to enhance their capabilities in responding to any threat to the region, military experts told Al-Mashareq.

In the last such military drill, US navy and Saudi forces conducted a routine and joint sustainment training on and around the two Saudi islands of Karan and Kurayn May 24th-30th.

The second phase of the training followed the successful completion of the first phase on April 22nd, and provided the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (BATARG) with the embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) an opportunity to continue training and planning with Saudi forces.

"These islands in the Arabian Gulf provide our Navy-Marine Corps team an ideal setting to prepare for a wide range of operations, while exercising seamless integration with our highly qualified partners," said Capt. Lance Lesher, commodore of Amphibious Squadron 8.

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A reconnaissance Marine assigned to the Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), prepares to launch an RQ-20 Puma aboard a combat rubber raiding craft May 24th as part of routine sustainment training in the US 5th Fleet area of operations. [US Marine Corps]

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A reconnaissance Marine assigned to the Maritime Raid Force, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), helocasts from a US Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk on May 25th. [US Marine Corps]

"This return training on Karan and Kurayn islands allows us to exercise our full mission readiness as a premier crisis-response option for our nation, as we also work alongside our Saudi partners for security and stability in the region."

"The Arabian Gulf region is one of the most volatile regions in the world because of the repeated Iranian threats and the ambitions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the region," military expert Talaat Moussa said.

"Hence, enhancing the military capabilities of the countries of the region is a priority for them, but also for the US which has strategic partnerships with those countries," he told Al-Mashareq.

Advanced training

The Karan and Kurayn trainings "were advanced exercises" that enhanced the participants' combat experience, enabling them to quickly intervene under the most difficult conditions, Moussa said.

These exercises also enabled Saudi forces to learn the latest rapid intervention methods and techniques and ways of dealing with emergency situations.

The elements of time, speed of execution and full high-level co-ordination are "an essential factor in the success of any rapid landing operation carried out by these two teams", he said.

Exercises included well deck operations, underwater beach surveys, maritime patrolling and boat lane security operations.

US naval forces also established a forward arming and refueling point for aviation assets to refuel in an austere environment -- which increases the aviation combat radius and enables them to conduct follow-on operations.

Retired Lebanese Army Col. Jamil Abu Hamdan told Al-Mashareq the US Navy's MEU and BATARG are "two of the most powerful rapid intervention teams during security and military crises, and they have high capabilities in responding to any security threat".

"Their members are highly skilled in moving by air, land or sea and are equipped with the latest modern military technology, such as night surveillance equipment that enables them to hit targets with precision," he said.

US commitment to regional security

Successive training exercises in the Gulf region, particularly by Saudi and US forces, are the strongest "affirmation of the US's commitment to the region's security", Saudi military expert Mansour al-Shehri told Al-Mashareq.

Elite US forces "can deal with the Gulf's natural environment and terrain", he said, adding that most of the training conducted in the region is aimed at acquainting the members of the forces with the environment they will encounter.

The speed of movement and engagement that the two teams are capable of would "deter any attack that Iranian speedboats could carry out in the region", al-Shehri said.

Islands near and off the coasts of Gulf states could be targeted by Iranian speedboats transporting fighters or weapons, he noted.

Hence, the teams' high skills and intense firepower, in addition to the close surveillance for potential targets that is ongoing round the clock under all weather conditions, will serve as a strong deterrent to any Iranian or other threats in that region, he added.

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