Tel Aviv (Times Of Ocean)- In the largest joint naval exercise in recent years, Israeli missile boats refueled from an American tanker in the Red Sea, expanding the Israeli navy’s “operational range and abilities,” the Israeli Defense Forces announced Tuesday.
The military claims the largest naval exercise in recent years will increase navy’s operational range and capabilities. Combat at sea, vessel protection, and mine disarming will also be drilled.
The bilateral exercise – dubbed “Intrinsic Defender” – involving 300 soldiers and commanders from each country, which began last Sunday, was the biggest in recent years between the Israeli Navy and the US Fifth Fleet.
In a statement, the military said the exercises included naval combat, naval firing exercises, vessel protection, sabotage and neutralization of mines, as well as search and rescue scenarios and medical aid at sea.
“For the first time, Israeli Navy missile ships practiced refueling from an American replenishment tanker in the Red Sea, which increases the Israeli Navy’s operational range and abilities,” the statement read.
“The ‘Intrinsic Defender’ exercise expands the range and operational capacities of the Israeli Navy. Cooperation with the US Fifth Fleet helps us to improve and refine ourselves,” said the chief of the Israeli Navy, Maj. Gen. David Sa’ar Salama.
“This exercise is an important and significant step for our strategic stability in the maritime arena,” he added.
A team from the navy’s Underwater Mission Unit practiced neutralizing naval mines at Eilat Bay in southern Israel, as well as neutralizing explosives using unmanned vessels at Haifa Naval Base in northern Israel as part of the drill.
Snapir, the navy’s force protection and harbor security unit, practiced taking over vessels with the US Coast Guard and “preventing hostile terrorist activity,” the military said.
In a statement, the military called the drill “another demonstration of the close cooperation between the Israeli Navy and the US Fifth Fleet.”
“This exercise provided an opportunity for mutual learning, sharing operational capabilities and strengthening the strategic partnership between the two militaries,” it said, adding that the exercise “brought forth new capabilities to the Israeli Navy which increase its operational capacities in both routine and emergency situations.”
Israeli officials said the exercise was meant to serve as a response to recent attacks by Iran against Israeli naval assets in the Red Sea, which the 5th Fleet led in November.
In recent months, tensions were especially high with Iran amid indirect talks with the US in Vienna about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal.