US 5th Fleet, based in West Asia, announced the holding of robust joint air operations in support of maritime surface warfare (AOMSW) exercise the Persian Gulf, claiming to be trying to ensure freedom of navigation in the region.

Iran PressMiddle East: US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) conducted robust joint air operations in support of maritime surface warfare (AOMSW) exercise in the Persian Gulf Sept. 23-24.  

According to the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) official website, this exercise marks the fourth joint and combined integration operation between US naval and air forces this year. 

Previous exercises incorporated the Air Force AC-130 gunships in March, Army attack helicopters in April, and aircraft from the United Arab Emirates Joint Aviation Command in August.

“These exercises serve to enhance and solidify the capabilities of our profoundly powerful joint force, ensuring they are capable of rapid integration and decisive defense of the maritime domain,” said Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of NAVCENT, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, adding: “Alongside our fellow component commands and regional and coalition partners, NAVCENT’s capacity to ensure freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce continues unabated.”

The AOMSW exercise included Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) directing a wide variety of platforms to conduct simulated fires against surface threats attempting to attack a high-value unit, played by the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO 195).           

Participating commands included the AFCENT Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, Nimitz Carrier Strike Group with embarked Carrier Air Wing 17 and NAVCENT Task Forces 50, 51/5th, 53, 55, 56, and 57.  

Iran holds naval exercises 

The US drills come in the wake of the recent large-scale naval exercises held by the Iranian Army forces in the country’s southern waters.

The three-day exercises, dubbed Zolfaqar-99, was held under the command of the Army’s Zolfaqar base, with observers from the Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Base in attendance.

Speaking on the eve of the drills, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Army Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the exercises were designed to bolster the country’s combat preparedness and enhance the safety of regional shipping routes.

“The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran will have to know that in case of any strategic mistake on their behalf, Iran’s response will not be limited to the West Asia region and they will face a wide theater of combat,” he said.

Before the drills, Americans and all other extra-regional military aircraft were warned to avoid the exercise zone, resulting in a noticeable change in the behavior of American UAVs operating in the area.

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