“Since September 2015, the U.S. and coalition
[forces] stopped and seized four arms shipments that
were hidden on dhows that originated in Iran and
were making their way, either directly or indirectly, to
push higher-end weapons into Yemen,” Donegan said.
“[While] we’re trying to get all the entities to the peace
table, we don’t want [anyone] to be pushing weapons
to a non-state entity that is not the recognized government in a country. The end result of that behavior
is that now we have that conflict spilled into the maritime … [and] impacting the free flow of commerce.
Donegan was referring to “the multiple attacks that
have been made from the Houthis in Yemen on ships
transiting the Red Sea though the Bab-el-Mandeb
Strait,” including with land-based missile strikes and
robotic boats carrying explosives.
“That threat is a clear and present danger, not just
to military ships, but to commerce that flows through
there,” he said. “So we’ve been working very hard at
getting that threat back into the land mass and not
having it out into where all the world’s interests are
for the free flow of commerce.”
Piracy is the other threat that Donegan’s units
counter, and where they have achieved considerable
progress. In 2010, pirates captured 45 vessels, said
Capt. John Thompson, chief of staff for the CMF. Until
March, there had not been a single successful attack in
the region since May 2012.
“The threat still remains, and pirates based in
Somalia are still quite capable of mounting an attack if
an opportunity were to present itself,” Thompson said.
“We’ve been very successful with our coalition
and, also, the EU [European Union] and NATO that
were here in pushing that threat to the back burner,”
Donegan said. “If we weren’t out there patrolling
the seas, and especially if our coalition weren’t there
patrolling the sea it would rear its head back up again
The CMF includes ships and aircraft of 31 nations with
the missions of “safeguarding the free flow of commerce,
countering piracy and terrorism, and deterring the trans-
port of illicit goods, to include weapons and narcotics,”
Thompson said [see story on page 36].
“What makes CMF remarkable is that it is a unique
collective of like-minded nations that contribute on
an entirely volunteer basis, with no formal treaty or
agreement, but because it is the right thing to do.
Nations contribute as much or as little as they desire
and can change their contribution at any time,” he said.
“Because CMF is completely voluntary, nations
contribute where and when they see fit,” Thompson
said. “The number of ships frequently varies as they
are added or removed by their respective nations.
National policies may prohibit participation in some
operations, but allow full participation in others.
These national policies are fully respected within CMF
and a nation is never asked to do anything that its
In addition to the 31 nations of the CMF, there are
numerous independent deployers in the region, such as
Russian and Chinese naval ships participating in coun-
terpiracy, he said.
“Ships operating as part of CMF do communicate
with these independent deployers as part of being professional mariners,” Thompson said.
The CMF operates three task forces. Commander Task
Force (CTF) 150 covers the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian
Ocean and Gulf of Oman. CTF 151’s mission is to disrupt
The U.K. Royal Navy Helicopter Carrier HMS Ocean leads a fleet
formation during Exercise Unified Trident in the Arabian Gulf Feb. 1.
Unified Trident is a multilateral exercise with the Royal Navy, Royal
Australian Navy, U.S. Navy and French Marine Nationale to enhance
mutual capabilities, improve tactical proficiency and strengthen part-
nerships in ensuring the free flow of commerce and freedom of navi-
gation within the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations.