The Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) conducted bi-lateral maritime exercise Neon Defender (ND) 21 at sea in the Arabian Gulf and on land in the Kingdom of Bahrain, April 3-7. ND 21 is the capstone in a series of bilateral land, sea, and air exercises between the BDF and NAVCENT, designed to broaden levels of cooperation, support long-term regional security, and enhance military-to-military interoperability. During the training, aircraft from both nations practiced maritime strike operations against simulated threats.
To expand upon existing year-round interoperability training, participating units conducted multiple simulated scenarios, focusing on maritime security, maritime infrastructure protection and harbor defense, visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), high value unit (HVU) defense, medical, mine clearance, airfield damage repair and counter improvised explosive device (IED) operations. ND 21 also included the first time Bahrain and U.S. forces participated in air operations in support of maritime surface warfare (AOMSW) training together.
“This year’s iteration of Neon Defender was the largest in the series of exercise we regularly conduct with Bahrain,” said Capt. Karl Haywood, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56, who led the exercise. “It has been a perfect example of our combined forces continuously building on existing mutual maritime security capabilities. The integration of AOMSW training into this year’s exercise especially highlighted our evolving capabilities as a combined, joint maritime force.” \
“The expanding scope and scale of exercises with our Bahraini partners gives our combined forces opportunities to dramatically increase our interoperability, mutual maritime security capabilities and the integration of processes, systems, and command and control functions,” said Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). “By cooperatively training together, exercises like this allow us to effectively develop the necessary skills to address threats to freedom of navigation and international commerce, and enhance regional safety and security.”
With a focus on expanding interoperability in a comprehensive, joint environment, participating tri-service U.S. maritime forces from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard included patrol craft, harbor protection unit boats, Mark VI patrol boats, explosive ordnance disposal teams, a Marine Corps Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team (FAST) platoon, a Coast Guard Maritime Engagement team, MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters, a Global Health Engagement team, a Naval Construction Force team and joint terminal attack controllers. U.S. Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) fixed-wing fighter aircraft also participated in the AOMSW portion of the exercise.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is host to the U.S. 5th Fleet headquarters, and maintains a strong military-to-military relationship with the U.S. as a key regional and coalition partner. The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.