10th Naseem Al Bahr

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

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The 10th Joint Naval Exercises named Naseem Al Bahr (Sea Breeze) was held between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in Karachi. Naseem Al Bahar (NAB) is a biennial exercise, which was evolved as manifestation of the unique Pak-Saudi strategic bilateral and interpersonal relationship and mutual resolve to enhance bilateral cooperation in facing the common challenges. These exercises were a clear manifestation of Pakistan’s commitment towards maintaining peace and stability in the region. Participation of Royal Saudi Naval Force (RSNF) ships in the exercise further strengthened existing bilateral relations between two brotherly navies. It was also a milestone in history of Pakistan Navy in which the complete exercise was conducted from Jinnah Naval Base, Ormara. It was lasted for one week.

The biennial exercise has matured and now advanced level maritime drills are accompanied by weapon sensors evaluation, test firings of missiles and honing of various doctrines as well as interoperability procedures. These exercises termed critical to access the translation of grand military strategy into operational plans. The exercises were begun on 12th January, 2013.

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A demonstration of Live Weapons Firing by ships and aircraft was conducted. It was the height of these joint naval exercises. The spirited participation of RSNF units in the exercise is a clear reflection of common professional working culture and strong foundation of brotherly relations that exist between the two nations since decades.

Admiral M. Asif Sandila, Chief of the Naval Staff and Royal Saudi Naval Force’s Western Fleet Commander, Rear Admiral Ibrahim Othman Al-Dulaijan, witnessed these joint naval exercises. It was indeed a mega strategic event. It was the professional display of various other maritime manoeuvres at sea of both the brotherly navies. Both the navies showcased their professional preparedness and diversified expertise in different integrated fields. Royal Saudi Naval Force’s Western Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Ibrahim Othman Al Delaijan said that the joint exercises of Royal Saudi Naval Forces and Pakistan Navy was aimed to check the preparation levels of both the navies and the exercises proved that both navies were in excellent condition. “Pakistan navy is a professional maritime force,” he said. “It has modified ships and we have gained from their experience.

Aims & Objectives

The aims and Objectives of the 10th Joint Naval Exercises was to foster friendship and develop common understanding. It was carried out to increase interoperability with RSNF in the domains of traditional as well as non-traditional warfare in order to maintain peace and stability for the larger good of the region.

Traditional Warfare Domain Nontraditional Warfare Domain

It was conducted to share and refine tactics, techniques and doctrines through jointly undertaking anti-surface, anti-submarine and anti-air operations with RSNF The exercise mainly focused to improve inter-operability and tactical proficiency in the execution of combined maritime security operations.

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Details of Joint Naval Exercises (Naseem Al Bahr)

The joint exercise was not merely based on physical manoeuvres of various surface, aerial and sub-surface naval platforms, but involve the entire gamut of maritime operations; planning, executing and drawing lessons from NAB-X. In addition, a platoon of the RSNF Marines and a Special Operations Force team along with explosive ordnance disposal elements were also participated in the joint naval exercise.

Three ships of RSNF, Makka, Al Buraida and Tabuk and five ships of Pakistan navy, PNS Nasr, PNS Shamsher, PNS Zulfiqar, PNS Zarar and PNS Qarar participated in the joint exercises. During the joint exercises, P3C Orion aircraft fired harpoon missile while RSNF ship, Makka, fired C2C MM.40 exorcist missile.

The naval exercises were progressed through phased activities in harbour and at sea for gradual improvement and coordination in all professional realms. The activities in harbour included professional seminars on information security, counter piracy, mine counter measures and host of other events which will provide opportunity to share experiences and knowledge. The sea phase of the exercise was planned from January 15 till 20 in which RSNF and PN units were operated together and exercised all facets of modern warfare.

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Wide Range of Operational Maneuvers Participants

Pak-Saudi Joint Naval Exercises focused on different aspects of modern maritime warfare not confined to counter terrorism, convoy protection, anti-air, anti-submarine, mine countermeasure. Different intelligence based full-fledged operations were also conducted in multi-threat environment during these one week long exercises between the two countries. It further broadened new avenues of mutual cooperation and coordination in military related fields. Pakistan Navy Destroyers/Frigates, Missile boats, Fleet Tanker, Submarine, Mine Hunters and Naval Aviation units. Special Operating Force and Marines in addition to Fighter Aircraft from Pakistan Air force also participated in the exercise along with four Royal Saudi Navy ships, aircrafts, Special Operating Forces and Marines rigorously participated in the Pak-Saudi Naval Exercises. Participants of both the navies were determined to learn more and more to excel in the related fields.

Potent and Effective Navy

Emerging geo-political and geo-strategic scenarios in the region and around the globe values the importance of a potent and effective navy. It protects shores uncertainties and maritime economy. It encourages blue economy and merchant navy too. It safeguards deep waters sovereignty against piracy and any kind of human trafficking. It achieves regional naval power equilibrium.

Admiral Sandila said that, to deal with the emerging challenges on the maritime scene, seafaring nations need to collaborate and assist in protecting each other’s interests in a cooperative manner. In this context, Terrorism and piracy; being global challenges, demand a collective and coordinated response among all stakeholders as no single country can eliminate this menace single handedly, he added.

He emphasized that a potent and effective Navy is the need of the hour. Government of Pakistan having limited resources is making all the efforts to equip Pakistan Navy so that it can effectively guard the national maritime interests at Sea. ‘I feel it is important for national and global economy that a legitimate maritime order is maintained at seas. He stressed that Pakistan Navy’s outreach to regional and global navies in respect of defence collaboration is a manifestation of Government’s Foreign Policy Objectives. The Chief of the Naval Staff expressed satisfaction on successful conduct of exercise and appreciated strengthening of maritime cooperation between Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He also thanked Royal Saudi Naval Forces for their active participation in Exercise Naseem Al Bahr.

Pakistan Special Services Group-Navy (SSG-N) and Royal Saudi Naval Special Forces
A bilateral exercise between Pakistan Special Services Group-Navy (SSG-N) and Royal Saudi Naval Special Forces was also conducted during the joint naval exercises. The officers and members of SSG-N, Pakistan Navy Maritime Special Warfare (MSW) Group, SEAL Group and officers and members of the Royal Saudi Naval Special Forces participated in the exercise. It was operationalized simultaneously by MSW and SEAL Group. Many interactive seminars, informative lectures and special operations exercises were carried out. MSW conducted Maritime Special Operations encompassing maritime counter terrorism, counter piracy operations at sea and close quarter combat.

Special operating forces used special force boats, VBSS boats and helicopters. The joint exercise culminated with mock boarding operations on a simulated pirate vessel in counter piracy situation by using the SSG-N sea platforms. The SEAL Group mainly focused on minor operations, marksmanship, transition drills, live moving fires, Fighting in Built Up Area (FIBUA), Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), Close Quarter Combat (CQC) and mountain warfare. It made them perfect and passionate.

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SSG-N & RSNS Joint Field Tactical Exercise

All participating teams demonstrated individual skills in different facets of special operations. Both the teams and especially SSG-N rated as one of the most potent forces globally with a diverse capability to undertake sea, air and land operations and anti-terrorist operations. It consists of field craft, survival techniques, navigation, hide pit drills, ambush on convoy and raid on simulated target which was undertaken in mountainous terrain by both special operations forces. It further enhanced their professional experiences and preparedness.

The bilateral exercise provided a good opportunity to the armed forces of both the countries to exchange expertise in the domain of special operations, to develop cordial relations and to also enhance interoperability in times of war and peace. It would alter the repercussions of War Theater in the days to come. Terrorism is menace and naval piracy has already become a potential threat to regional and global peace and joint exercises of these kinds would be right step in right direction.

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Historic Perspectives

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia being a strategic ally have been extending diversified mutual military cooperation since long. Navies of both the countries have a long history that dates back to the period of 1960s. Initially Pakistan Navy offered to train Saudi naval cadets at the Pakistan Naval Academy, Karachi. The ties have since grown in size and stature. The relations have now excelled in several mutually beneficial areas covering professional, academic and operational fields. Pakistan has been remained second home to all the Saudi naval cadets for since long. The Saudi officers are regular recipients of mid-career professional as well as advance BE engineering courses at the NUST-affiliated Pakistan Navy Engineering College, PNS Jauhar.

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Naval Mutual Cooperation

NAB series of exercises is indeed a concerted effort from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to promote maritime security awareness for collaborative maritime security in the region. First NAB series of exercise was conducted in January 1993 and the present exercise also marks the 20th year of this interaction with Royal Saudi Naval Forces.

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The current commander of the RSNF, Vice Admiral Dakheel-Allah Bin Ahmad Bin Mohammad Al-Wakadani, is also a graduate of Pakistan Naval Academy. Moreover, a number of seats are availed by the RSNF each year in the PN staff course. Numerous first generation Pakistan Navy trained Saudi naval officers have held key positions in the RSNF hierarchy in the past while countless others from later generation are now in the top slots. In an attempt to reinforce cooperation and expand the mutually beneficial ties, exercise Naseem Al-Bahr was formalised between the Pakistan Navy (PN) and the Royal Saudi Navy Force (RSNF) in 1993.

The joint naval exercises use to conduct every two years. It usually begins with combined seminars that examine various maritime security challenges from each side’s perspective. The seminar proceedings are followed by simulated war games at PN tactical training centres ashore. In the final phase, major naval combatants, including aircraft from each side, conduct joint manoeuvres at sea.

Pakistan Navy

The Pakistan Navy regularly conducts bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional and extra regional navies to improve its interoperability with international navies. Pakistan Navy is increasingly focused on policing roles and sharing of resources for maritime security operations against asymmetric threats as well as contemporary challenges like piracy, terrorism, narcotics, arms and human smuggling which have a great impact on the maritime environment. It is a responsible maritime power contributing relentlessly in maintaining legitimate maritime order at sea through conduct of Maritime Security Operations in Arabian Sea and beyond.

Pakistan Navy Royal Saudi Naval Force

It has transformed into a regional force during the past decade or so. It is achieved through new platform acquisitions, cutting-edge technology and distant operations. It now allows the PN to wield influence in much of the western Indian Ocean. Staring from 1950 with a few coastal vessels, the Royal Saudi Naval Force has developed and now exerts considerable sway over the Persian Gulf and Red Sea region through its eastern and western fleets headquartered at Jubail and Jeddah respectively.

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Royal Saudi Navy

1. Past
The naval force of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known as the Royal Saudi Navy or the Royal Saudi Naval forces (RSNF). The Royal Saudi Navy was formed in 1950. According to an official figure, now it consists of a total of about 20,000 naval personnel which includes a total of about 3,000 marines.

Royal Saudi Naval Forces Details
naval headquarters Riyadh
Main Base Jeddah
Western fleet Red Sea
Eastern fleet Persian Gulf
Source: Royal Saudi Naval Forces (2011-2012)

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces is the naval unit of the Saudi Arabia Armed Forces and it main role in the Saudi Arabia armed forces is maritime warfare. Some of the important world events in which the Royal Saudi Naval Forces took part are the Gulf War, Operation Restore Hope and Sa’dah Insurgency.

2. Present

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces with its headquarters in Riyadh is under the overall command of Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Dakheel-Allah Bin Ahmad Al-Wakadani. It comprises of a host of modern foreign built ships ranging from the US built corvettes to French built frigates to British built mine hunters.

Royal Saudi Naval Forces Operational Preparedness

Western Fleet/Red Sea Base It consists of frigates and two projectile boats, 1 refilling ship and a patrol minesweeper; sited due north of the King Faisal Naval Base air station and to the south of the container port area. The smaller base home to corvettes, replenishing ship left over projectile boats.

Eastern Fleet/ Jubal Base/Persian Gulf It houses minesweepers on the Persian Gulf, Jubal, the Saudi naval forces Eastern fleet home. Dammam is the Persian Gulf home base port for the Saudi Arabian Royal family’s two Royal Yachts.
Source: Royal Saudi Naval Forces (2011-2012)

3. Future

One of the main aims of the Royal Saudi Naval force is to counter the threat of the regional threats. Saudi armed forces are prepared to go every extent to protect their motherland. It has been under the rigorous process of modernization in the armed forces at every level. The Jubail base is now considered to be the second largest naval base in the Gulf and the Saudi.

Mutual Vested Interests

Since the independence of Pakistan in 1947, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have maintained close religious, cultural, economic and strategic ties. The bilateral relationship between the two countries is extremely close. Pakistan has maintained the closest bilateral ties as a non-Arab Muslim country with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Defense cooperation between the two countries is very unique too.

Both PN and RSNF are major players in their respective areas of interest within the western Indian Ocean. Both share mutual vested interests in the region. Both the navies have robust capabilities to radiate influence far and beyond. Both the navies can synergize their potential to significantly advance the cause of maritime security and stability in the wider arc of the Indian Ocean. Joint exercises like Naseem Al-Bahr, whilst deepening the time tested ties, continue to serve such a purpose and concomitantly stimulate peace and harmony for the larger good of the region.

Pakistan has been providing support, arms & extensive training to Saudi defense forces for so many years. Saudi Naval forces & Special Forces are sent to Pakistan every year on joint exercises with the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Navy. Both the countries have been extending mutual cooperation and coordination in the several past hostile events that occurred in both the countries.

In 1969, Pakistan air force pilots flew Saudi fighter planes to ward of invasion from south Yemeni separatist group. The Yemeni separatists were crushed by the Pakistani forces. Between the 1970s and 1980s around 15000 Pakistani forces were stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the borders and train the Saudi forces. In 2009, Yemeni
rebels attacked Saudi forces and tried to enter southern provinces of Saudi Arabia. Pakistani forces were once again backing up the Saudi Army and Yemeni rebels were forced to retreat after suffering heavy causalities.

During the 1979 siege of Masjid ul Haraam at Makkah Al Mukarramah, Pakistani SSG commandos were called to clear the rogue group that had laid siege at the Haram. The rogue group was successfully neutralized and the siege ended. In 2011, Pakistan Army supported Saudi Arabia stance on Bahrain and sent around 1000 retired army men to protect the Kingdom of Bahrain against ecowarriors. Also in 2011, two Pakistan army divisions were on standby in case of unrest in eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

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In 1980s Saudi Arabia and Pakistan jointly supported the Afghan freedom fighters who were fighting against foreign invaders. Ultimately they succeed and former Soviet Union collapsed. It was one of the biggest achievements of joint Saudi-Pak defense cooperation. Both the countries are working closely to counter the dragon of terrorism in the region and around the globe. They have already initiated many effective diplomatic measures to bring peace in Afghanistan. Marathon diplomatic efforts are now going on and on behind the curtains. Moreover, Saudi Arabia being the biggest strategic ally of Pakistan supported it to develop nuclear power.

Concluding Remarks

Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strategic bilateral relations have transcended the vicissitude of time. The relations are not based on political cooperation; rather it is imprinted deep in the heart of every Pakistani and Saudi national. Both countries care about each other more in practice than in words. Regular Naval Exercise and goodwill visits of naval ships from friendly countries like Saudi Arabia further strengthen their bonds. They are the source of strength between the armed forces of both countries.
Naseem Al Bahar-X highlighted the combat management system on the ship, which includes torpedoes, missiles and oceanographic technologies. An impressive demonstration of Live Weapons Firing by ships and aircraft was supposed to be culminating point. The Joint Naval Exercises included a wide range of operational manoeuvres encompassing major facets of maritime warfare. It related to counter terrorism, convoy protection, anti-air, anti-submarine, mine counter measure and intelligence based operations conducted in multi-threat environment.

It reflected tremendous professional gameness, martial allegiance and the last but not the least, spirits of cooperation and coordination of both the navies. It showed the importance of a potent and effective Navy in order to tackle the emerging state and non-state actor’s threats in the region and around the globe. It portrays the feelings of togetherness, uniqueness and unity. It stands for mutual trust and respect. It speaks about uniformity of vested strategic interests. It manifests of both the government’s foreign policy objectives. It would further strengthen the maritime cooperation between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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