Bahrain – The U.S. Navy announced on Sunday that it will participate in joint war games in the Arabian Gulf, the first since President Donald Trump entered the White House on January 20.
The exercise called “Unified Trident” will involve the British Royal Navy flagship HMS Ocean and Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring, the U.S. warships USS Hopper and USS Mahan, French anti-aircraft frigate FS Forbin, and Australian forces. It will be held off the coast of Bahrain from January 31 to February 2.
The exercise is intended to “enhance mutual capabilities, improve tactical proficiency and strengthen partnerships in ensuring the free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation,” according to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The multinational drill called Unified Trident will involve “all of NAVCENT’s task forces, to include surface, strike, mine countermeasure, maritime patrol assets along with UK, French and Australian naval forces in the Arabian Gulf,” according to the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet spokesman.
British Royal Navy’s Commodore Andrew Burns will lead o the Combined Task Force of four nations.
Burns said that the drill means to contribute to stability, order on the high seas and freedom of navigation, and ensure the free flow of commerce “so vital to the prosperity of our nations.”
The troops are expected to simulate destroying Iranian combat jets, ships and coastal missile launching facilities during the exercise.
The exercise, which has apparently been planned for some time, comes after a string of brief encounters between U.S. warships in the Gulf and Iranian ships.
Earlier in January, the USS Mahan fired flares and warning shots on four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps attack boats near the Strait of Hormuz as they approached the U.S. Navy ship at high speed and didn’t respond to orders to slow down.
Iran had previously threatened to close the Strait after a number of U.S. sailors were arrested by the Iranian coast guard.
On January 12, 2016, one of the U.S. boats had a faulty engine, and the two crafts were approached by two IRGC boats. Ten sailors were then taken into custody, where they interrogated at Farsi Island.
The sailors were released the second day after former Secretary of State John Kerry had contacted his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif.