RFA Fort Austin takes centre stage in major international maritime exercise

A Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship has been at the heart of a major exercise to safeguard oil platforms and harbours in the Gulf.

RFA Fort Austin was used as a stand in oil platform during a recent International Maritime Infrastructure Protection Exercise which tested the skills of navies and coastguards from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, as well as the US, France and the UK.

Using RFA Fort Austin as an oil platform, the remainder of the ships split into two groups, with one responsible for 360 degree protection of the ‘critical infrastructure’ from simulated aggressive attacks by the other group of ships.

The protection operations provided a chance to coordinate tactics between the various nations and test communications protocols.

We really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in an exercise involving so many different partners in the Gulf.

Captain Booth, RFA

The exercise was hosted by Combined Task Group 152 (CTF-152), part of the 30 nation Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), which conducts maritime security operations in the Gulf.

Headquartered in Bahrain, CTF-152 sent liaison officers to sea in RFA Fort Austin, providing direction and guidance to the various ships in the task group.

Captain Suliman Al-Enazi, Commander of CTF-152, said: “I was impressed by CTF-152’s ability to plan and execute such a complex exercise involving participants from so many nations. 

"The skills necessary to effectively protect maritime infrastructure are vital to regional navies. 2015’s maritime infrastructure protection exercise was a great success and I look forward to doing it again next year.”

Following successful completion of the exercise, representatives from the various nations came together onboard the 23,000 tonne Stores ship, RFA Fort Austin for a discussion of lessons learned for the future.

Captain Booth, Commanding Officer of RFA Fort Austin, said:

“We really enjoyed the opportunity to take part in an exercise involving so many different partners in the Gulf. It was a thoroughly enjoyable exercise, despite very challenging weather conditions.”