The US Navy has announced the start of the 16th iteration of North African multinational joint military maritime exercise ‘Phoenix Express 2021’.

The drill is being conducted in Tunis, Tunisia, and across the Mediterranean Sea.

Exercise Phoenix Express is one of the three regional maritime drills executed by US Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF).

The exercise, which will run until 28 May, will see the participation of 13 nations. It will provide an opportunity to increase regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and enhance operational capabilities.

It is aimed at enhancing efforts to promote ‘safety and security in the Mediterranean Sea’ and ‘territorial waters of participating North African nations’.

The countries taking part in the exercise are Tunisia, Algeria, France, Greece, Belgium, Egypt, Italy, Mauritania, Libya, Malta, Spain, Morocco, and the US.

Phoenix Express exercise director captain Harry Knight said: “Exercises such as Phoenix Express 2021 increase interoperability among participating nations in order to increase maritime security and sustain global commerce.

“Our maritime exercises allow us to develop our skills with our regional partners by learning from each other and working together.”

According to the US Navy, exercise control group will be hosted this year at the La Goulette naval base in Tunis, Tunisia.

The ‘at-sea portion’ of the exercise will test the abilities of North African, European, and US maritime forces in responding to irregular migration and ‘to combat illicit trafficking’.

Tunisian Navy senior captain Jamel Ben Omrane said: “Phoenix Express is more than a multinational maritime exercise; it is a strategic opportunity for all participating nations to build a fruitful partnership and benefit from the others experience.

“Indeed, Phoenix Express 2021 is a tridimensional event which moves from the strategic aspect where the leaders find the opportunity to draw the broad lines of Med Sea security to then cross the operational sphere where one can exercise the command and the control of a multinational group enforcing a common objective to finally arrive at the tactical level, which offers CO’s the possibility of carrying out different types of manoeuvres at sea.”