IDF, 5th Fleet begin Intrinsic Defender drill

The 10-day bilateral exercise is being held on Israeli territory and offshore in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

By Erin Viner

The maritime drill, codenamed “Intrinsic Defender,” was launched with a joint briefing led by the Commander in Chief of the Israeli Navy, Vice Admiral (VADM) David Saar Salama, and the Commander of United States Naval Forces Central Command (CENTCOM), the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, Vice VADM Brad Cooper – marking the American military leader’s fourth visit to the Israeli Navy in his current position.

“The Israeli Navy and the US Fifth Fleet are well aware of challenges in the naval arena. One of the ways to deal with these challenges is cooperation between friends, cooperation between nations,” said VADM Saar Salama,  according to a statement TV7 obtained from the IDF Spokesperson’s Office.

Underscoring that “The United States is a very important ally of the State of Israel, the IDF and the Israeli Navy,” VADM Salama added, “We once again are at the beginning of another exercise – an exercise which will help us to improve and strengthen cooperation.”

Intrinsic Defender is the latest joint Israeli-US drill aimed at strengthening the operational capabilities and strategic partnership of the two militaries, and it is the largest exercise to-date between the Israeli Navy and the US Fifth Fleet. It will include simulated joint naval scenarios including naval combat, naval firing exercises, vessel protection, sabotage and neutralization of naval mines, search and rescue scenarios and providing medical aid at sea; intended to expand the Israeli Navy’s operational abilities and deepen the shared learning process, said the IDF.

About 300 regular servicemembers and commanders along with a matching number from the US will participate in the exercise, including teams from Israel’s Underwater Mission and Snapir Unit (VBSS) and American explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts.  The US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67), dry cargo ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) and various unmanned vessels are scheduled to be used during the training.

“USS Cole looks forward to partnering with the Israeli Navy during the exercise,” said the vessel’s Cmdr. Jim Welsch in a statement published by the US Defense Department, adding that, “Working with our partners allows us to strengthen our bonds and increase our interoperability. This exercise will allow us to fortify our continued partnership in the region.”

The Cole has been operating in the US 5th Fleet region since 4 January 2022 in support of maritime security and stability.

The US 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses nearly 2.5 million square miles (just over 4 million square kilometers) of water area that include the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Bab al-Mandeb.