Israeli Navy corvette INS Eilat, L, guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, center, and an Israeli Navy fast patrol boat transit in formation during a combined maritime security patrol in the Gulf of Aqaba on Tuesday. Photo by Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class Jesse Johnston/U.S. Navy
Sept. 1 (UPI) -- U.S. and Israeli warships conducted a combined maritime security patrol in the Red Sea this week as a shift in responsibility for Israel from U.S. European Command to U.S. Central Command took effect Wednesday.
The exercise included the U.S. 5th Fleet's guided-missile cruiser USS and a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft along with an Israeli navy corvette and two patrol boats conducting air defense, high value unit defense, small boat operations and tactical maneuver training in the Gulf of Aqaba, the U.S. Navy said in a news release.
"Our navies are ushering in a new era of expanded cooperation and capacity building," Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces said in the release.
"We are partnering in new ways, which is essential for preserving security in today's dynamic maritime environment," Cooper said.
At the end of his administration, former President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Defense Department to shift responsibility for Israel from EUCOM to CENTCOM.
The shift followed the Abraham Accords, a series of political agreements between Israel and neighboring countries.
Gen Kenneth McKenzie, head of CENTCOM, said in February that the transition would take time but would allow for a collective approach to security in the region, Defense News reported.
Capt. Robert Francis, commodore for NAVCENT's Task Force 55, which controls U.S. Navy surface assets in the Middle East, said the combined patrol would help maintain security and stability.
"The collaboration has been tremendous," he said. "We share a common understanding with our international counterparts that there is strength in unity."
The exercise included search and rescue drills and tactical defense maneuvers.
"The partnership with the 5th Fleet is a strategic partnership for the security of the region and the security of Israel," Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari, head of the Israel Defense Forces naval operations said, according to the Jerusalem Post.
"This exercise is the beginning of a cooperation that will expand and increase the circles of defense and security in the maritime space to prevent terrorist acts," Hagari said.