The US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) has commenced the Middle East region’s largest maritime exercise in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Known as International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022, the 18-day biennial naval training event was launched during a ceremony at US 5th Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain.

The event is combined with exercise Cutlass Express (CE), which is conducted annually by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa in the West Indian Ocean and East African coastal regions.

It will witness the participation of 9,000 personnel and up to 50 vessels from over 60 partner countries and international organisations operating across two regions.

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

With over 80 unmanned systems from ten participating countries, IMX/CE 2022 is also claimed to be the largest uncrewed exercise in the world.

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The officials were briefed on new uncrewed capabilities during the first day of the maritime exercise.

IMX/CE 2022 aims to provide participating forces a platform to trial uncrewed solutions and artificial intelligence in diverse training setups.

Eventually, the lessons acquired during the training will be applied in real-world operations in future.

Training will lay emphasis on improving capabilities in command and control, sea control, and maritime security operations, as well as mine countermeasures.

International naval forces participating in IMX/CE 2022 are segregated into four geographical combined task forces that are steered by the UAE, Egypt, Kenya, and Oman.

Task Force X, a combined task force, has also been formed for carrying out exercises involving uncrewed systems and artificial intelligence integration.

During this year’s combined exercise, the training evolutions will cover the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and North Indian Ocean.

The event is scheduled to finish on 17 February. This is the seventh iteration of IMX, which was initiated in 2012.

In September last year, the US Navy declared the commencement of the UNITAS LXII annual multinational maritime exercise near Lima, Peru.