The Commanders Respond

In addition to participating in various multilateral exercises, the Brazil-Namibia naval cooperation agreement is an important partnership initiative. Due to this endeavor, the Brazilian Navy contributed to the creation of the Namibian Navy and continues to assist with its improvement. The success of this relationship led the countries of Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe to initiate a similar partnership for the development of their navies in 2013.

In the international environment, Brazil believes that the prevalence of multilateralism and the strengthening of the international laws related to sovereignty, nonintervention, and equality among states promote a more stable world focused on the development and well-being of humanity. It is also worth highlighting the role of the Brazilian Navy in the Maritime Task Force of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which has been under Brazilian leadership since 2011.

Experiences of such magnitude entail great challenges, but the Brazilian Navy works to overcome them by focusing on mutual trust and respect, actions, and cooperation which are the convergence of principles that govern the training of our personnel. Furthermore, we understand and respect the situations and limitations that could occur, and we stand ready to fulfill these missions with excellence.

Rear Admiral Mitko Petev

Bulgarian Navy

Sixteen years ago, the new millennium opened new horizons to the Bulgarian Navy. Bulgaria became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004 and the European Union in 2007—both coalition-founded organizations with strong cohesion. Those memberships posed significant challenges to the Bulgarian Navy such as operations out of the Black Sea and a multicultural environment, which required the respect of individual national limitations as well as regulations. The Bulgarian Navy has participated actively and made huge strides in new operational and maritime domains, and makes meaningful contributions to Euro-Atlantic security.

For more than a decade, the intense regional naval cooperation in the Black Sea has supplemented the coalition efforts of NATO and the EU to achieve stability in the region. Bulgaria was among the founders of the Black Sea Naval Co-Operation Task Group in 2001 and participated in confidence and security-building measures in the Black Sea in 2002.

However, in 2014 the situation in Crimea changed the strategic conditions in Southern Europe and froze Black Sea naval cooperation. The Bulgarian Navy reacted by intensifying its activities in allied as well as bilateral formats. The new strategic environment has demonstrated the significance of alliances for small countries and has emphasized the importance of NATO Article 5, which considers an attack on one ally as an attack on all. The increased self-defense exercises and activities on all levels between the NATO Black Sea nations as a coalition response has mitigated the adverse impact of the decreased cooperation in the region. The EU-led operations in the Mediterranean (Operation Sophia) and the Horn of Africa (Operation Atalanta) epitomize ways multinational naval capabilities can contribute to a swift and timely response to current security challenges such as terrorist activities, crime at sea, and illegal immigration. The increase of well-tailored coalition activities can compensate for the deterioration of partnership cooperation and furthermore result in the preservation of regional stability and security.

The aforementioned activities in the areas of mutual defense of allies, counterterrorism, and security operations at sea were a tremendous shift for the Bulgarian Navy, but the challenges, problems, and financial restrictions did not push it off course. Rather, allied support and mutual confidence ensured the supremacy of the law in the maritime domain.

Vice Admiral Mark Norman

Royal Canadian Navy

Canada has historically recognized and embraced the important role that partnerships and relationships play in its naval activities. International engagement for Canada has long involved both multilateral activity, as under the auspices of NATO, as well as strictly bilateral arrangements with its closest ally and neighbor, the United States. This unique, multifaceted defense partnership is reflected in a wide array of bilateral institutions and agreements, notably the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Permanent Joint Board on Defence, as well as in regular, and more informal key leadership engagements.

The most public and tactical method of partnership-building between navies continues to be, without a doubt, joint operational deployments at sea, including large- and small-scale military exercises, such as the recent Exercise Trident Juncture and the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC). Coalition exercises and deployments are hugely important—not only for Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) leadership, its sailors, and their ongoing training at sea—but as part of a larger Canadian focus on enhancing technical interoperability, combat readiness, and seamless communications among like-minded partners.

Increasingly, the legacy of a strong Canadian-U.S. partnership has also enabled Canada to establish other meaningful connections and opportunities with newer (some might say less traditional) allies—for example, Chile. Canada has formed a relatively new and very productive partnership with the South American nation by seeing firsthand how the Chilean Navy works in multinational exercises such as RIMPAC 2014. That was followed by navy-to-navy talks and key leadership engagements between admirals. It proved to be an easy relationship to develop, given the similar technology, systems, and most importantly, operational cultures of the two navies. Furthermore, comparable tactics and procedures at sea made interoperability nearly seamless, and helped overcome any potential challenges of language. Due in part to that existing relationship, the temporary use of a Chilean replenishment ship, the Almirante Montt, to fill a capability gap Canada had for the resupply of its fleet at sea proved to be mutually beneficial. By building that expertise and cooperation in advance, Canada already had an established and familiar connection when the need arose.

Canada’s success as a relatively small naval power flows in many ways from its multilateral approach. Recognizing that the time to build expertise, interoperability, and mutual trust is well before the need arises, the RCN must have the platforms and people available to continue to contribute to coalition activities—to strengthen our existing relationships, and to forge new ones. For the RCN, institutional investment in partnerships is critical to its current and future success.

Admiral Enrique Larrañaga Martin

Chilean Navy

Some of the main challenges of working at an international level include achieving a sufficient degree of interoperability, overcoming the language barrier, and building trust among members of a coalition. Interoperability is essential to reach a common understanding and command multilateral forces. Its facets range from integrating systems with different characteristics and origins to ensuring that deployed units can sustain the duration of operations and availability of matériel in areas far from our fixed bases. Moreover, since English is not our native language but is the operational language of the international organizations of which we are a member, we have to make special efforts to achieve the required level of proficiency.

Rather than pursuing a single measure, we have taken several actions to gradually respond to these challenges and build up mutual trust with the navies with which we work. Our most important initiatives include a greater dedication to preparation, the planning process, and increased communication with our colleagues. This has led us to adjust our internal policies, processes, and procedures and, at the same time, to focus primarily on standardized material and logistically self-sufficient units.

With training processes that align with NATO standards as well as regular English language training programs for our personnel, we perform with increasing competence and confidence. We do not consider this situation as an obstacle, but as an opportunity for our organization to make improvements and for our personnel to further develop their skills. It is now an additional motivation for our people.

None of our goals will be possible if we do not understand and see our partners as indispensable to the achievement of common objectives. In this sense, it is important to work closely together and to complement each other’s capabilities, maximize our similarities, and minimize our differences on the basis of mutual respect for our different cultures, contributions, and limitations. The adopted measures have produced good results as a whole, considering that the Chilean Navy has been entrusted with greater responsibilities over the years. An example of this is our participation and role in RIMPAC, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise.

Vice Admiral Hernando Wills Vélez

Colombian Naval Forces

The Colombian Navy has participated in regional and global associations and coalitions since the mid-20th century, when it committed three ships and more than 500 crew members to respond to the crisis generated by the Korean War. Subsequently, with the UNITAS operation, a multinational task force was formed to defend the Americas during the Cold War. Colombia has regularly participated in these exercises for almost 60 years.

On the regional level, the Colombian Navy has played a key role in complex, diverse operations, working with navies in the Americas, Asia, and Europe in exercises such as RIMPAC, PANAMAX, DESI, BRACOLPER, and recently Atalanta and Ocean Shield. The purpose of these operations is to fight piracy, establish maritime control, and grant humanitarian assistance.

During operations in which the main language is different from our own, there can be communication difficulties. However, the standardization of tactics, techniques, and procedures have allowed the language barrier to be overcome. In addition, the tradition shared by the majority of the world’s navies has granted a better mutual understanding among sailors—a privilege that other professions don’t have.

The Colombian Navy has learned that no contribution is insignificant or minor when taking part in combined operations. Nevertheless, the restrictions that occur due to coalition navies’ varying levels of technical capacities can actually enrich—in terms of focus and innovation—the planning, execution, and conduction of varied naval operations. The limitations of a navy in a global association or coalition are not necessarily an obstacle for operational success. Rather, they can provide a valuable opportunity for development and growth of all participating navies, both for their international input as well as the strengthening of their capabilities in this complex and ever-changing world.

Rear Admiral Veijo Taipalus

Finnish Navy

The Finnish Navy works mostly with the Swedish Navy, but also with others. The Finnish Navy now operates closely with the German Navy in crisis-management endeavors. Having a shared goal has ensured that any challenges have been minimal.

Finnish and Swedish military cooperation has a long history. Since the 1970s, we—as well as other Nordic countries—have shared a common training system for peacekeepers. In addition, we have had bilaterial exercises for decades. In the beginning of the new millennium, our navies started to cooperate with crisis-management operations and expanded to incorporate our marine troops as well. A couple of years ago, the foundation for the establishment of the Swedish-Finnish Naval Task Group (SFNTG) was laid down. After that, the process for developing SFNTG has progressed rapidly. Our cooperation is proceeding extremely well in good common understanding and bringing us positive results.

Challenges in Swedish-Finnish cooperation, if any, have been minimal, because our culture, legislation, and all other aspects of our countries are quite similar. In regards to our navies, all the systems, functions, and procedures in use are more or less similar—keep in mind that the other national language of Finland is Swedish. These facts have made our cooperation natural, easy, fruitful, and effective. When we have faced problems to be solved, the concerns have been more technical in nature; by no means could one call them challenges.

Admiral Bernard Rogel

French Navy

Admiral Sir George Zambellas

Royal Navy

From the march of ISIS to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, global security challenges demand a global response, in cooperation. As ever, the effectiveness of cooperative maritime operations is to be found in multinational coalitions and international partnerships.

Last year’s Exercise Trident Juncture demonstrated that with political will and focused effort, like-minded navies can combine in scale and reach to produce a powerful military effect. But against the deteriorating international security situation—the challenge faced by the Royal Navy, the French Navy, and our partners—we must come together more quickly and effectively. To make this a reality, there are four crucial requirements.

The first, and most obvious, is a willingness to act together and the presence of common political and military objectives. In military terms, this requires a mutual understanding of each other’s motivations, capabilities, and limitations, and navies that regularly exercise and operate together have an advantage. Interoperability is the second critical requirement. Developing common procedures, using the same technical standards, and operating on common networks are all necessities. Over time, strong working relationships can help. But ultimately, we must design future equipment to be interoperable by default, so we can “plug and play.” This needs to be done now, while the technology is still on the drawing board.

Beyond steel and circuitry, our partnerships must also shape how we train, think, and fight, which is the third requirement. Information sharing is essential: Personnel exchanges and common training can help develop the mutual trust that makes this possible. The fourth and final point is ensuring that the necessary legal frameworks are in place to work together easily. The decade-long effort to combat piracy near the Horn of Africa shows this is possible. The coalition was sufficiently flexible for individual ships and aircraft to switch between sovereign and international tasking with ease and, in doing so, turned conflicting national rules of engagement from a hindrance to an advantage.

These principles are guiding the Royal Navy and Marine Nationale as we seek to deepen and strengthen our partnership. With France’s 2013 White Paper on Defence and National Security and the United Kingdom’s Strategic Defence and Security Review of November 2015, our two nations have converged toward a similar model for maritime power. The Marine Nationale and the Royal Navy are both modern, globally deployed navies that possess the full range of capabilities from aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, and amphibious forces, through to offshore-patrol vessels and special forces, with all the necessary enabling components.

Both France and the United Kingdom are members of the UN Security Council and NATO, and both our navies have an extensive network of partnerships around the world. The Royal Navy’s international maritime leadership extends to the component command of NATO’s maritime forces, the deputy command of Combined Maritime Forces in the Middle East, and membership of the Five Powers Defence Agreement in Southeast Asia. Beyond its contributions to NATO and to the EU, France has bilateral defense agreements with 12 countries and has military units stationed in five countries in Africa and the Middle East.

In the Persian Gulf, the Charles De Gaulle carrier group, which includes ships from Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom, is integrated into the U.S. chain of command as commander of Task Force 50. In the central Mediterranean, British and French ships and aircraft contribute to the EU operation against human traffickers. In the Gulf of Guinea, where French units have been deployed permanently since 1990, they support the efforts of regional navies and coast guards to enforce maritime security. In the Caribbean, they are engaged in the multinational operations against organized crime and stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance in the event of natural disasters. Both countries train military leaders and also advise and train partner navies worldwide.

Recognizing the historic bonds between our two countries, the convergence of our defense interests, the strong similarities of our armed forces, and our shared responsibilities in the international arena, France and the United Kingdom signed the Lancaster House Treaty in 2010. With this treaty, our two nations have agreed to deepen our operational cooperation. This includes developing the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force for high-level, first-entry operations, and coordinating future operations between our carrier strike groups. We have initiated common procurement programs such as helicopter-launched antiship missiles and our future mine-countermeasures capability, and we will also work together in the nuclear field.

With this partnership, we not only reinforce the bonds between our two nations; we also increase our ability to respond together to international crises and to meet our international responsibilities. Yet there is still so much our two navies can learn from one another, and from our many international maritime friends. There is still so much more that we can achieve—and must achieve—together. Political will, military interoperability, and mutual trust are the ingredients for success.


Rear Admiral Thorsten Kähler

German Navy

The 21st century is the age of globalization; as the world becomes more accessible, distances become less important. But in regards to security, global networks enhance global risks and vulnerabilities. In fact, regional crises and conflicts have repercussions felt worldwide. Due to the complexity of networks, no nation—no matter its size and capabilities—can cope with crises and conflicts alone. International cooperation and partnership are the keys to making a sustainable difference in global safety and security.

In light of current European security challenges, the Baltic Sea has gained importance—reassuring our eastern allies is an imperative. Regional responsibility is back in the fore, which requires enhanced regional cooperation. The Baltic Commanders Conference has been established to coordinate our efforts to share resources to improve capabilities and sustainability. Neighboring nations have been asked to contribute their individual capabilities, no matter their size or special abilities. The Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean, and Gulf of Guinea have security challenges as well. If the Baltic approach were used as a blueprint, a global network of regional security-cooperation efforts could significantly enhance worldwide security.

At the same time, export-oriented industrial nations such as Germany must assume global accountability. Our navy takes regional responsibility and must also be able to act globally. In such a system, all nations and their navies have important roles to play and contributions to provide. The baseline for cooperation, however, is standardization and mutual understanding—and these are the biggest challenges.

The German Navy has been integrated into NATO and the EU from the very beginning. Our participation in NATO’s four standing naval forces has been the cornerstone for standardization; not only in technical aspects, but tactics and procedures. The value of all four groups cannot be underestimated. As partnership is a core pillar of NATO’s strategic concept, the groups are also the foundation for cooperation with non-NATO nations, and as such act as a catalyst. Without mutual understanding, no partnership or cooperation will be effective. Only with common exercises, training, and close relations can we achieve sustained results.

Vice Admiral George Giakoumakis

Hellenic Navy

The Hellenic Navy has a long history of regional cooperation on a bilateral or multilateral basis with many navies due to Greece’s national policy as well as allied, European, or international commitments, both on operational and staff levels. Each operation or cooperation activity entails a variety of challenges that range from the rules of engagement to logistics. We have encountered minor technical problems such as issues with interoperability when working with non-NATO navies or on more important challenges such as legal matters, especially when the operations involve law-enforcement functions (definitely not a primary task for a navy).

That being said, I can also say that in all circumstances, mutual respect and focusing on commonly shared values have always been the vehicle to mission success. We make every effort to take into account the sensitivities of our partners, and we always show our deepest respect for their considerations and use constructive dialogue to surmount any obstructions.

For the Hellenic Navy, mutual respect is a sine qua non for accomplishing any mission. This is why we have managed to maintain equally good relations with all the navies in the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond, while simultaneously being at the forefront of NATO and the EU, cooperating daily with the allied and partner navies.

Our nation has been situated at a geographical crossroads of merging and diverging cultures and interests throughout history, and Hellenic ships and sailors have plied these waters for almost five millennia. We know our environment and its inhabitants. We have always considered that our added value—beyond our ties with the sea and our commitment to values such as peace, progress, common sustainable prosperity, and the freedom of the seas—is our ability to act as a connective tissue for our neighbors, allies, and partners. This has been proven to be so in all the challenges that Europe has faced. While our views mirror our national identity and idiosyncrasies, we wish to continue our role as a strong, stable actor in both blue waters and the littorals. As the wheel of history has taken us to highs and lows more than a few times, we interact with both strong and weak navies with equal respect, and value any contribution made, without frowning at any limitations.

In our view, deep and sincere mutual respect; cultural awareness and sensitivity over differences; deep knowledge of the area as well as the history of nations, countries, and their inhabitants; and a deepening cooperation with navies and actors in the Eastern Mediterranean, its approaches, and further beyond enhance the security and stability of this area, set the blueprint of any and all successful naval endeavors, and are the reasons to overcome any challenges to mission accomplishment.

Admiral Giuseppe de Giorgi

Italian Navy

We live in turbulent times, and our world is becoming more dangerous than it was a few years ago. This is particularly true within Italy’s area of strategic interest: the wider Mediterranean region that stretches from the African waters of the Gulf of Guinea to the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. This area is plagued with tension and problems related to unresolved conflicts in the Middle East, the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the enduring Libyan crisis, the evolution of terrorism, and a massive and unprecedented migration flow. Other major factors include the change in the military posture of several nations seeking to assert their influence in the area (as in the case of Russia), the ongoing efforts of various coastal countries to modernize their fleets (including a proliferation of submarines), and a variety of maritime security concerns such as piracy, the illegitimate “territorialization” of the high seas, merciless overfishing, and pollution.

This extremely complex scenario presents intertwined risks and threats that range from high end to low end. Most of these challenges have already required collective responses, whether within existing organizations and alliances (as in the case of the EU and NATO) or by creating ad hoc partnerships. This approach has been successful so far, as several examples testify. One is represented by the NATO, Coalition Maritime Force, and EU antipiracy operations in the Indian Ocean. To the latter, the Italian Navy provides the Atalanta force commander and flagship. In the Mediterranean Sea, Italy provides the operational commander, force commander, and flagship for European Union Naval Force-Mediterranean’s Operation Sophia, which was recently launched to disrupt human smuggling and the trafficking networks managing illegitimate operations in the Central Mediterranean.

Since the current situation entails evolving military threats (along with cyber and information warfare), we must focus on the whole spectrum of conventional warfare to effectively “plug and play” within coalitions and alliances. The international system of alliances and partnerships cannot always cover all the security needs of a country, so we must be ready to tackle an array of maritime challenges as well as perform a larger variety of tasks that include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the fight against asymmetric threats, and sea battles against highly capable adversaries. To do so, the Italian Navy must be versatile, balanced in all its components, and have enhanced “dual use” potential. Our new ships under construction reflect these requirements. Thanks to their high speed, long endurance, resilience, and seaworthiness, they will be capable of performing a greater number of different missions.

Admiral Dato’ Seri Panglima Ahmad Kamarulzaman bin Haji Ahmad Badaruddin

Royal Malaysian Navy

The world faces many challenges due to evolving maritime security issues. The changing global geostrategic environment and its threats require nations to work together to address them. Cooperation is key to maintaining peace and stability, both regionally and globally. Nevertheless, this goal is more easily articulated than realized, as forums on cooperation and partnerships are often viewed as mere rhetoric. We must remind ourselves that threats and challenges require constant monitoring and awareness.

Mutual trust and respect are vital elements in cooperation, which relies on how prejudice and perceptions are managed—especially in regions in which legacy issues persist. Therefore, all stakeholders must have a pragmatic and empathetic approach. Regular confidence-building measures or engagements are essential to creating and strengthening trust and lasting cooperation among navies that work together. Commitment is another key element for effective maritime-security cooperation and partnerships, as current economic uncertainties have seriously affected nations’ (especially those that are financially challenged) commitment to regional and global contributions.

We must innovate and be creative in establishing cooperation in light of the fiscal constraint faced by many nations, including Malaysia. We should focus on high-impact cooperation with minimal cost implications, such as intelligence and information sharing through regional and global networking. It is not just about numbers or quantity, but the quality of the partnership or collaborations. I believe that we need to address challenges and turn them into opportunities.

Over the years, the Royal Malaysian Navy has benefited tremendously through continuous engagement with regional navies as well as the members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements and extra-regional naval forces, including major powers such as the U.S. Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy. With the idea of promoting regional peace and stability, we are committed to continue our “soft diplomacy” approach, as it is nonconfrontational and has been successful in mitigating the complexity of maritime-security issues in the region—especially among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states.

It is equally important to respect other navies’ opinions and contributions to create a high level of trust and mutual confidence. For example, the “Eyes in the Sky” and the Malacca Strait Patrol initiatives have enhanced cooperation and interoperability among participating forces. Their effectiveness has led to other initiatives, such as the anti–sea robbery quick-reaction force formed by Malaysia and Indonesia, which could be enhanced by engaging other regional navies.

Captain Darko Vukovic

Montenegrin Navy

Working within international partnerships or military coalitions poses challenges to all navies, whether large or small, in both regional and global scenarios. Every navy has its own culture, language, national interests, aspirations, individuals, and assets. The ultimate challenge is building and fostering common accepted and applied general principles and values to ensure a mutually successful operational performance within navy task groups as well as the theater of operations.

First and foremost, mutual understanding and confidence is needed, as well as adaptability and flexibility, despite the differing assets and systems of the navies involved. Although all members of a coalition are responsible for determining how to succeed, larger navies have more responsibility for ensuring coalition success. Navies that are more technologically advanced can adapt more easily, and train smaller navies to ensure interoperability.

Small navies must find a way to prepare, educate, and train their personnel to properly communicate and behave professionally in international coalitions. Second, they should develop specific naval capabilities and forces, and make them available for international engagement to prove that they are a responsible partner and security provider. By doing this, small navies can assist larger ones to apply principles and recognized values, and all partners can learn from each other. Adaptability, the development of complementary forces and capabilities, flexibility of employment and common crews, and personnel engagement at combined military headquarters can further ensure excellence for everyone involved in the coalition or partnership.

Interoperability and common training are needed to surmount the challenges of international partnerships. The interoperability of personnel; implementation of common tactics, techniques, procedures, and standards in the training of naval crews; the regular planning and execution of exercises and operations; common development and modernization of naval assets and equipment; and specific capability developments will ultimately make coalition forces more effective.


Lieutenant General Rob Verkerk

Royal Netherlands Navy

Integration is the key to the successful cooperation between the Belgian Navy and Netherlands Navy. We share the same headquarters and staff, led by the Admiral Benelux [the commanding officer of the combined military staff of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the naval component of the Belgian Armed Forces], which are allocated with the commander of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN), while the deputy is the Belgian fleet commander. The operational headquarters, training authority, schools, and maritime battle staff are fully integrated, with Dutch and Belgian staff officers serving both the Netherlands and Belgian navies. Operating with the same class of frigates and mine hunters, the maintenance is shared and divided between Zeebrugge (mine hunters) and Den Helder (M-class frigates). Both nations maintain the sovereignty of their assets.

Coordination and aligning tactics, techniques, and procedures are key in the equally successful cooperation with the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. What started as a combined landing force in 1972 has resulted in extensive cooperation. With the arrival of our amphibious transport docks, our cooperation now has the potential to be a high-readiness force up to the brigade level, together with specialist shipping and supporting maritime/land/air assets. RNLN ships join Flag Officer Sea Training for a final work-up. U.K. and RNLN submarine programs, including the nuclear and diesel-electric Submarine Command Course, are aligned to create maximum synergy.

Recently, the Netherlands and Germany signed a letter of intent to work on closer cooperation. And the three replacement programs (the Walrus -class submarines, the M-class frigates, and the mine-countermeasures vessels) also offer opportunities to create best value for taxpayers’ money while delivering state-of-the-art capabilities.

Here are some suggestions for succeeding at international cooperation:

• Overcome the differences in culture and language. Understand and respect each other’s size, habits, culture, national problems, and challenges. Common doctrine and procedures help.

• Take time to gain trust. Meet regularly, and work not only on content but on relations. Different national laws and rules of engagement affect training requirements, financial and replacement processes, and real-world operations.

• Cooperation often requires investment at the front end. Financial benefits come later. These investments should be mirrored to international equipment and infrastructure for more or better interoperability.

• Define a common goal. Grasp opportunities and use low-hanging fruit to gain momentum. Strive for commonality in matériel, organization, procedures, etc. Understand where you differ and agree.

• Size does matter. As a small navy, you should be flexible to adjust to the standards of your fellow (but bigger) partner without neglecting your own core values. If you are the bigger partner, ensure you are open to learn.

Being ambitious is a necessity but must be balanced by a fair share of realism.

• Don’t expect big steps; incremental ones will get you there as well. Train as you fight, and fight as you have trained. If integration is too farfetched initially, start with the exchange of information. The rest will come.

• Look for possibilities for cooperation. Bottom-up initiatives usually work better, because the people believe and will make it work (better).

• By cooperating, you will have to rely on your partner(s). That may seem scary initially, but will rapidly become comfortable if you start to see the qualitative and quantitative advantages.

Rear Admiral Lars Saunes

Royal Norwegian Navy

Winston Churchill once said, “There is at least one thing worse than fighting with allies—and that is to fight without them.” This quote is still valid. Coalition warfare is more relevant than ever before. When different nations come together in coalitions and partnerships, new possibilities and win-win situations arise. In times of austerity, international cooperation between allies—or “smart defense”—is paramount to maintain important skill sets and capabilities. However, this type of sharing and cooperation demands a strong degree of trust between partners.

As a small nation with a limited budget and one of the world’s most powerful navies as our closest neighbor, Norway has been dependent on close allies for decades. (This is one reason that we joined NATO in 1949.) When close friends and allies come together, the training opportunities and the quality of training may increase significantly. The Royal Navy’s Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) in Devonport, New Zealand, is a good example.

A general challenge for smaller navies is to maintain high standards of training despite a limited number of personnel and assets. One cannot afford to keep both fully manned vessels at sea and a large training establishment ashore. Norway has prioritized manning its vessels, which reduces our ability to support the work-up and mustering of the units. By sending our frigates to FOST, the time used for work-up is significantly reduced and the quality of the training has increased. FOST also promotes interoperability and standardization between close allies. In other words, the program promotes best practices; complying with its high standards of training builds credibility among partner nations.

Several nations are represented at FOST. Cooperation and partnership, as seen at FOST, makes possible a level of quality that none of the participating nations would have been able to achieve alone. Based on our frigates’ good experience, we are now also sending our corvettes to Devonport.

The researcher Tomas Valasek once claimed in a study that defense cooperation has a higher rate of success if the countries involved are of similar sizes and strategic cultures, and if they trust each other and have comparable attitudes toward the defense industry. In my opinion, this is only partly right. If the partnership is initiated by the navies—not by political pressure—and there is a common benefit for the nations and services involved, it may continue successfully for years.

Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah

Pakistan Navy

Since the turn of the century, asymmetric threats in the maritime domain have become more pronounced. Due to the magnitude and diversity of these challenges, as well as the need to keep the sea lines of communication unhindered, there is a growing realization that no nation can tackle these alone. Thus, collaborative maritime security has become a compulsion rather than a choice. The Pakistan Navy, in line with its national policy, has been quick to adapt to these new realities and joined the U.N.-mandated Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan in 2004.

But therein lies the challenge of getting the desired response from the “coalition of the willing,” as the goals of participating nations are as diverse as the coalition itself. The key challenges faced by combined maritime forces include the lack of a regional mechanism that underpins a structured response in the long haul, varied rules of engagement (ROEs), small regional navies’ responsibility for a large area of operation, interoperability issues with other task forces, and a variety of independent operators such as those engaged in antipiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. One of the major concerns has also been the capacity to meet ever increasing national and coalition commitments. However, to its credit, the Pakistan Navy has struck a fine balance to realize both national and coalition commitments.

Pakistan enjoys a unique position in the region in regard to its relations with nearby countries. Operationally, it has acquired useful experience through participation in Combined Task Forces (CTF-150 and CTF-151). Its officers have also commanded these task forces. Given these advantages, Pakistani commanders accomplish the assigned mission by according due regard to the diverse operational characteristics, needs, and aspirations of individual nations. The participation of regional nations bordering the area of responsibility is encouraged through active engagement with them. A pragmatic approach is taken in interpreting the national ROEs of coalition partners, and choices are made by accommodating differing legal approaches for the common good and mission accomplishment. The Pakistan Navy has shouldered additional responsibilities related to its CTF participation, reflected by the fact that it is the second-highest contributor after the U.S. Navy.

With primacy accorded to the Law of Armed Conflict and the aforementioned considerations, the challenge of coalition operations is also an opportunity to draw on the strengths of participating nations and learn from their best practices. The institution of a regional collaborative mechanism, capacity-building of regional navies for enabling enhanced participation, and evolving consensus-based ROEs is the way forward. With such an approach, accomplishing a coalition mission or task would become far less challenging. Notwithstanding, being a part of coalition has always been a matter of pleasure and pride for the respective commanders in general—and the Pakistan Navy in particular.

Admiral Edmundo Deville

Peruvian Navy

Over the years, the Peruvian Navy has participated in many combined operations or coalition operations such as RIMPAC, PANAMAX, SUBDIEX, UNITAS, UNITAS AMPHIBIAN SIFOREX, and BRACOLPER and has been very useful; by participating, the readiness and interoperability of our naval forces have increased.

The operational challenges we have encountered were related to having a single doctrine or protocol for operations, as well as the lack of a compatible command-and-control system, data link, and communication systems to allow and ensure a permanent coordination in real time between units of the participating countries. Another obstacle is not having tools to facilitate identification in the area of operations of the various actors (FRIEND-ENEMY-NEUTRAL).

Having limited dynamic and agile intelligence channels that allow timely sharing and the dissemination of information makes it a challenge to act efficiently and effectively in an alliance or coalition. This weakens in relation to the existing gaps in the legal framework of each member country, which requires the implementation of the rules of engagement with similar content; value is added to the actions of forces within operations.

Faced with these challenges, we must have a naval force structure that allows the projection of power and versatility to cope with the different types of threats that come from transnational organized crime. Such force should not to be altered by bureaucratic barriers that impact internal and interstate relations proper to each country.

These challenges are being overcome gradually, backed up by free and voluntary help as well as the technical and logistical support of media (as the host nation/leader) platforms. This has taken place during exercises or operations focused on the safeguarding of interests recognized by the international community through the Declaration of the Organization of the United Nations.

Another way to overcome these obstacles is by establishing policies that facilitate the implementation of activities as measures of mutual trust such as the training/coaching of staff and the development of symposiums. These include various exercises ranging from strategic to operational and/or tactical, which are developed at the inter-ministerial level and interagency, and also link to other organizations of friendly countries.

Captain Sallieu Kanu

Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces

In this era of globalization, maritime safety and security are the sine qua non of both regional and global economic stability. As Africa continues to battle the challenges of severe resource and capacity limitations, its maritime environment has become not only prone to plunder and exploitation, but a safe haven for maritime crime—which greatly undermines regional security. Because no single country has the answers to these challenges, regional and international collaboration and coordination has become crucial.

Sierra Leone has a coastline of 210 nautical miles as well as 200 nm of exclusive economic zone, which amounts to a maritime territory of 41,000 square miles. Unlike the terrestrial environment in which barriers and checkpoints can be established, the sea is completely different. Effective maritime security requires the deployment of operational surveillance systems and the appropriate sea platforms to detect, intercept, and apprehend criminals.

Efforts by regional bodies including the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States, and the Gulf of Guinea Commission to enhance regional cooperation and collaboration are gradually paying off. The conduct of the joint regional fisheries patrol under the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission contributed immensely in combating unreported and unregulated fishing in the sub-region. At the national level, Sierra Leone established the Joint Maritime Committee, which allows its maritime agencies to work together using unified resources to improve the national maritime response. Internationally, the conduct of the various activities of African Partnership Station programs including the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership and Saharan Express benefited Sierra Leone significantly; illegal activities were reduced and our maritime forces were professionalized.

While working together is extremely beneficial, there are associated challenges that include the disparity in the legal frameworks and judicial processes, bureaucratic hurdles with reporting and obtaining direction from the involved chains of commands, operational security lost during the picking up of local boarding teams, limited capability and escorting procedures by host nations, unequal maritime knowledge and experience, irregular intervals for conduct of joint operations, language barriers, and limited funding and resources.

To overcome some of these challenges, we provided French language training and regular professional training, increased efforts for capacity enhancements, and reviewed our existing statements of purpose and concepts of operations. As we learned, combining skills, experience, and resources can build synergies, providing more complete and relevant response.

Rear Admiral Lai Chung Han

Republic of Singapore Navy

The undersea environment in the Asia-Pacific is becoming increasingly crowded. By 2020 Asia-Pacific navies could operate over 200 submarines. The congested environment, coupled with the shallow waters in the South China Sea and Malacca Strait, increases the risk of an accident at sea involving submarines.

While there has been progress in submarine-rescue cooperation, submarine rescue is essentially reactive. A water space-management system to de-conflict submarine movements, such as NATO’s Submarine Movement Advisory Authority, would be a more proactive measure. However, the sensitivity of submarine operations precludes such an arrangement in the Asia-Pacific. Nevertheless, we could pursue a framework for submarine operational safety in four less sensitive areas.

First, information sharing . While information about submarine movement is sensitive, navies can still collaborate to share nonsensitive information that affects the safety of submerged navigation. This includes seismic activity, fishing activity, and real-time movements of deep water oil rigs and very large crude carriers.

Second, sharing best practices . Beyond promoting mutual understanding and cooperation in submarine rescue, we can also share best practices in submerged navigation, underwater medical research, and material safety. This will allow navies to benefit from one another’s experience.

Third, establishing common standards . Established material-safety standards such as those under the U.S. Navy’s SUBSAFE program could be adopted to ensure that submarines are in safe operating condition. The adoption of common equipment standards such as Standardization Agreement 1297 will facilitate compatibility for submarine rescue and enhance interoperability among submarine-operating navies.

Fourth, establishing an Underwater Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) , an agreement reached at the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium to minimize uncertainty and facilitate interaction when naval ships and aircraft encounter each other, could provide guidelines for collision-avoidance actions and help avert catastrophic incidents between submerged submarines, and between submarines and surface vessels.

To operationalize this framework, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has embarked on several initiatives. We are developing a Submarine Safety Information Portal to share information that will enhance the safety of submerged navigation. This May, the RSN and the Republic of Korea Navy will cohost the second Submarine Operational Safety Conference, where participants can exchange best practices in underwater medicine and underwater safety management. The RSN is also developing a draft Underwater CUES for discussion at the conference.

Apart from the potential loss of life and property, a serious submarine incident could also trigger strategic mistrust and miscalculation. So while the tactician in us would balk at saying or sharing more about submarine-related matters, the strategist in us must rise above our misgivings and steer a different course.

Vice Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne

Sri Lanka Navy

Navies are an integral part of modern-day diplomacy more than ever before and must interact with their counterparts on various missions. Regional as well as global partnerships and coalitions help to achieve shared objectives. They are not formed overnight and entail a number of challenges. The main challenge that I have experienced when working in a partnership or coalition is establishing trust, which helps to surmount other obstacles. If we cannot trust and place confidence in our partners, it is highly unlikely that our coalitions or partnerships will move any further.

The lack of willingness to share important information and intelligence is yet another major challenge we come across often. Some navies trust their partners but still prefer to keep vital information to themselves. No matter how big a coalition is or how long its partners have worked together, if sharing critical information does not occur, it is unlikely to achieve effective results.

As we rally around various coalitions and form partnerships to address maritime-security threats and challenges, we must monitor situations taking place in other regions as well. We must go beyond issues that take place in our immediate backyard and become more aware of maritime security threats in remote locations, as they could soon become a problem that affects us.

To overcome these issues, navies must maintain continuous dialogue as well as regularly engage each other with training, seminars, and exercises. Such events will enhance our cooperation and coordination and assist with building trust. When we are comfortable with each other, it means that we have respected the differences of others while finding a way to achieve end results through diversity.

It is also equally important to introduce the younger generation of officers to those who hold the equivalent position in partnering navies, as these personal connections will ultimately help forge valuable relationships. As our future military leaders, the close bonds that they build at early stages of their career will be very important for working together to resolve the challenges that arise when they work together in a partnership or coalition.


Admiral Lee Hsi-min

Republic of China Navy

The Republic of China (Taiwan) is located in the center of the First Island Chain in the West Pacific, which holds particular geostrategic significance. Taiwan, whose gross domestic product ranks 19th out of 227 countries, is the United State’s 10th largest trading partner—and we are all aware that economic prosperity requires political-military stability. Recently, East Asia has become turbulent, with the South China Sea’s contested waters and territories in the spotlight. As a member of the Asia-Pacific nations we endeavor to maintain regional stability, which cannot be achieved without each member’s participation. Hence, we propose the following plan for peace in the Asia-Pacific.

Our navy is very willing to interact with other navies and serve as a regional peacemaker, but our role is unfortunately limited by international politics. However, we are still dedicated to humanitarian assistance/disaster relief for any country in need. For example, after Typhoon Haiyan caused Palau and the Philippines serious damages in 2013, we responded quickly. In the future we will continue to promote military exchange and participation in regional naval activities and exercises to contribute to peace and stability.

We will strengthen our credible defense capability with innovative and asymmetric assets requiring research and development, which will further enhance regional stability. We believe that developing defensive mine technology, mobile missiles sets, etc. will improve our defense capability and continue to ensure our freedom and democracy.

The East/South China Sea Peace Initiatives (E/SCSPI) proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou in 2012 and 2015 are based on shelving controversies, observing international law, seeking consensus, and establishing a mechanism for cooperation on developing resources. This initiative has served as a blueprint to de-escalate tensions, cope with challenges, and work with other navies. Considering all of the territorial disputes and rising tensions,E/SCSPI is the only way to maintain stability.

With these efforts, we are confident that we can build a trustworthy and cooperative regional mechanism based on a multilateral network to reduce tension and substitute confrontation. We look forward to broadening and deepening our exchanges with Asia-Pacific navies to promote world peace and stability.

Admiral Bülent Bostanoglu

Turkish Naval Forces

The Turkish Navy contributes to regional and global stability through its relationships with NATO and regional and bilateral partnerships. It participates in NATO-led operations, U.N.-led endeavors, and regional initiatives and operations; supports confidence- and security-building measures in the Black Sea; and conducts expeditionary operations to contribute to peace and stability.

During NATO-allied operations, the Turkish Navy does not face any serious challenges due to common understanding, concepts, standards, and interoperable systems. However, issues such as lacking some of the platforms necessary for mission effectiveness are still a cause of concern. To fill the capability gap, the Turkish Navy delivers all of its commitments and provides support through national tasks and regional initiatives such as Operation Black Sea Harmony (OBSH) and Operation Mediterranean Shield.

As for counterpiracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, the Turkish Navy has assumed command of these task groups six times in addition to providing platforms. However, better coordination would create synergy among the EU’s Atalanta, NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, and Combined Maritime Forces. Meanwhile, the activation of the Barbaros Turkish Maritime Task Group–2014 contributed to the maritime security of Africa through capacity-building efforts. The recurring challenges faced during these regional or partnership operations were caused by not having common operating procedures, interoperable communication equipment and capabilities, and differences in work ethic.

During operations such as OBSH, a phased adaptive approach was implemented, starting with port visits and simple training activities to familiarize personnel. We handled communication challenges by installing similar equipment on participating units. Establishing operation centers in the participating countries was very helpful, as well as exchanging personnel among these operation centers, which helped to enhance cultural awareness. Conducting more complicated training activities and exercises would help participating navies to reach full operational capability in the future. Furthermore, the mobile training teams from the Maritime Security Center of Excellence (MARSEC COE), based at the Aksaz Naval Base, have helped the participating navies of distant countries to improve. MARSEC COE also hosts on-site courses and training to overcome challenges and contribute to capacity building.

Leadership is another prominent challenge. Having highly experienced leaders and tailored training for such missions would help. The Turkish Navy appoints commanding officers who have operational experience as well as cultural awareness of the participating nations’ navies. We have found that implementing such an approach in multicultural environments has made operations more effective. In conclusion, having a phased adaptive approach and focusing on leadership would be a good starting point for overcoming challenges when working in a partnership or coalition.



Conferences and Events

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From the Press

23 February - Seminar

Sat, 2019-02-23

David F. Winkler

3 March - Lecture

Sun, 2019-03-03

Stephen A. Bourque

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