March 8 (UPI) -- Five ships of U.S. Naval Forces Command joined forces of Oman, France and the United Kingdom for a mine countermeasures exercise, the U.S. Navy said.
The annual exercise, Khunjar Hadd 26, was held in the Gulf of Oman, and involved Oman's navy and air force, and the navies of the United States, France and Britain.
Led by Oman, the five-day drills at the end of February "designed to strengthen capabilities in underwater diving, searching, mine identification, demolition and maritime explosive ordnance disposal operations," a U.S. Navy statement on Sunday said.
The United States was represented by the guided missile cruiser USS Port Royal, patrol coastal ships USS Chinook and USS Thunderbolt, and mine countermeasures ships USS Gladiator and USS Sentry, all elements of the U.S. 5th Fleet.
For the first time, an Omani helicopter landed on a U.S. warship, the USS Port Royal, an example of a standardized HOSTAC [Helicopter Operations from Ships other Than Aircraft Carriers] maneuver which "ensures [that] partner nation pilots and ship crews can successfully and safely conduct cross-deck helicopter operations," the statement added.
"The naval exercise Khanjar Hadd 26 was successful by all standards, as it reflected the capabilities of the planners and executers to carry out a joint maritime exercise, while taking all precautions related to COVID-19," said Capt. Rashid Al Shehhi, director general of operations and plans, Royal Navy of Oman Headquarters.