U.S. 5th Fleet and the Israeli Navy kicked off a 10-day maritime exercise March 27 that will take place in and off the coast of Israel. Intrinsic Defender is a bilateral exercise between U.S. and Israeli naval forces. The exercise focuses on maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, health topics and unmanned systems integration. More than 300 U.S. personnel are participating, including a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal dive team, U.S. Coast Guard maritime engagement team, and global health engagement team.
U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67), dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) and various unmanned vessels are also scheduled to participate in the exercise. USS Cole (DDG-67) is an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyer home-ported in Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. USNS Wally Schirra is a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship of the United States Navy, named in honor of Captain Wally Schirra (1923–2007), one of the Mercury Seven astronauts, who flew three times in space, on Mercury 8, Gemini 6A, and Apollo 7.
“USS Cole looks forward to partnering with the Israeli Navy during the exercise,” said Cmdr. Jim Welsch, Cole’s commanding officer. “Working with our partners allows us to strengthen our bonds and increase our interoperability. This exercise will allow us to fortify our continued partnership in the region.”
Cole has been operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet region since Jan. 4 in support of maritime security and stability. The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandeb. It shares a commander and headquarters with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) in Bahrain. Fifth Fleet/NAVCENT is a component command of, and reports to, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).