60 nations kick off largest maritime exercise in Middle East

The Middle East region’s largest maritime exercise commenced on 31 January during a ceremony at US 5th Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain.


International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022, an 18-day biennial naval training event led by US Naval Forces Central Command, combines with exercise Cutlass Express (CE) led annually by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa in East African coastal regions and the West Indian Ocean. The combined training includes 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 partner nations and international organizations operating across two regions, according to the US Navy.

International naval forces participating in IMX/CE 2022 are divided into four geographical combined task forces led by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya and Oman. A combined task force called Task Force X was also established for conducting portions of the exercise focused on unmanned systems and artificial intelligence integration.

IMX/CE 2022 is 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.

During the exercise’s first day, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister, witnessed part of the IMX, where he was briefed on new unmanned technologies and engaged in the exercise.

Photo by: NAVCENT

“This level of representation demonstrates shared resolve in preserving the rules-based international order,” said Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “This is a unique opportunity to increase our capabilities and interoperability while strengthening maritime ties.”

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. Furthermore, training will focus on enhancing capabilities in command and control, sea control, maritime security operations, and mine countermeasures.

Cooper is the exercise commander and commodores from Pakistan and the United Kingdom serve as the deputy commander and vice commander respectively.

This is the seventh iteration of IMX since its establishment in 2012. Training evolutions during this year’s combined exercise will span across the Arabian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and North Indian Ocean.

The exercise is scheduled to conclude on 17 February, the navy concluded.