SMALLER NATIONS INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT IN NAVAL EXERCISES
BY DANIEL P. TAYLOR, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
When dozens of navies get together for
large-scale exercises, like Rim of the Pacific,
the photos that ultimately emerge show
the huge capital ships of the largest nations
strutting their stuff. But there are many
more nations in attendance that do not have
those big, gleaming hulls. What contribution do they make on the world stage? As
it turns out, quite a bit. And the U.S. Navy
wants to get them more involved.
One way is through what is known as Combined
Maritime Forces, or CMF. Capt. John Thompson, the
CMF chief of staff operating out of Bahrain, said in a
phone interview that CMF is an “enduring organization” that brings together 31 countries, ranging from
very large to the very small, to tackle some of the persistent threats they all face.
“We look at some of the threats we have and how
those threats will affect other nations around the
world, and we go to those countries and explain the
situation and why we think they’d be interested,”
For example, Combined Task Force 152 (CTF 152) is
an organization that conducts maritime security operations in the Arabian Gulf, with countries such as Kuwait,
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Iraq as
“We treat them like one of our other CTFs that do
counterterrorism, but we add a training component into
it,” Thompson said. “So we bring in officers and some
enlisted personnel, and we give them training on com-
puter communications, operational planning and other
things. And after they have worked through generating
plans and sifting through intelligence, we give them
ships from the U.S., and they go out and execute these
The officers rotate every four to six months, head-
ing back to their home countries armed with new
knowledge about conducting maritime operations, and
a new class of trainees come in to replace them. It’s a
year-round operation, and CTF 152 has been enhanc-
ing regional naval cooperation since it was established
in March 2004.
“The commander of CTF 152 is a Jordanian col-
onel [Col. Adbelkader Almarahleh], and he’ll have
the command for a year, and then when he leaves a
Saudi officer will come in and he’ll have command
for a year,” Thompson noted. “CTF 152 is kind of our
training organization. When they’re done with CTF
152, in 2018 they’ll command CTF 150, which is an
opportunity to learn how to command a task force and
multiple ships, and they’ll take that experience and
expand it out to the Indian Ocean.”
So why get smaller countries so involved when they
may not have as much to offer in terms of sheer power
or assets like capital ships? For one thing, the U.S.
Navy is trying to tap into some of the raw talent they
bring in terms of staff officers.
“A country like Singapore is fairly well to do.
They’ve got some budget, but it’s a very small nation,”
Thompson said. “Singapore has sent us some excellent
And what the smaller nations get out of it is the
experience with destroyer-sized ships and the knowl-
edge imparted from some of the most polished navies
in the world.
They also get access to a system called “Centrixs,”
which provides intelligence from the U.S. Navy Central
Command organization to help them understand the
common operational picture of the Indian Ocean and
the U.S. Fifth Fleet area of operations. So, basically,
they send staff and ships, and the Navy provides experience and intel, Thompson said.