Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

The Arabian Gulf has been known for many years to be the most strategic body of water in the world. Oil, which is the most important commodity in modern history, is produced from underneath the waters of this gulf and from the land close to its shores.

The oil produced here is transported through it. This warrants that a country like Saudi Arabia with shores extending hundreds of kilometers along the Arabian Gulf and another hundreds of kilometers of shoreline along the Red Sea is a maritime power.

More than 40 years ago Royal Saudi Navy had carried out the most massive and ambitious upgrade of its fleets, naval bases, naval institutes, naval schools, training facilities and command and control installations.

While the naval facilities were being upgraded, the Saudi Navy had sent many young officers, enlisted men and many high school graduates to the best-specialized naval and maritime schools in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, France and the United States.

Lately training and schooling is done in the Kingdom also. But at the same many Saudi naval personnel are sent abroad for specialized training. This is a continuous process and is done in order to keep the navy personnel abreast of the new technologies and war tactics.

A few days ago, the Royal Saudi Navy’s Eastern Fleet, which is based at King Abdulaziz Naval Base in Jubail, conducted one of the most massive naval exercises in the Arabian Gulf. The most notable aspect of the exercise is the area it covered and the number of personal and the naval units involved.

The naval exercise was given the name Gulf Shield 1. The exercise covered an area that extended from the mid gulf to the Gulf of Oman with passage through the strategic Strait of Hormuz with the participation of many of HMS Ships, Saudi Navy Marines, Saudi Naval Aviation, Special Naval Units, Command and Control Centers and Mine Sweeping Units.

Saudi naval ships with their massive firepower conducted live ammunition exercises and conducted operations that involved surface warfare and underwater threats.

Navy personnel who took part in the exercise are among the highest qualified ones in the area with many years of training in the Kingdom and abroad.

Then there was the massive participation by the Saudi Marine units. The Saudi Marines are very well equipped and their numbers far exceed some of the area’s regular armies.

Training and drills by Saudi ships and marines are conducted with a synchronized air operation carried out by the Saudi Naval Aviation and the special naval units that are trained and tested in fighting close proximity threats.

Gulf Shield 1 was a success and the Saudi naval personnel had shown reliability and readiness to protect the territorial waters and those adjacent to Saudi Arabia. According to the Saudi Navy Commander Vice Adm. Abdullah Al-Sultan and the Eastern Fleet Commander Adm. Fahad Algufaily the exercise is an extension of earlier exercises to refine the skills of the navy personnel.

The Gulf Shield 1 exercise has shown very talented naval units with synchronized and complicated operation procedures that not only involved the Navy’s Eastern Fleet, but was also conducted with precise coordination with all the naval installations and units along the western shores of the Arabian Gulf and the Command, Control and Communication Center in the Navy's Headquarters in Riyadh.

The Saudi Eastern Fleet is part of a wider body of ever expanding naval force. There are many naval installations along the Arabian Gulf such as in Ras Alghar near Jubail and Ras Mishaab near the Saudi-Kuwaiti borders. And there is also the Western Fleet based at King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah with many other installations along the eastern shores of the Red Sea such as the Naval Station in Jazan Province and Algathimah near Jeddah.

The Saudi Naval Headquarters is based in the Saudi capital Riyadh with state-of-the-art command, control and communication center. The navy has one of the largest naval academies in the region, which is located in Jubail.

The naval bases not only house navy ships, but also has one of the largest and most modern supply centers, naval schools, naval simulators and much more which make the Saudi naval bases the largest in the area if not the world. In addition to the training facilities, the Saudi Navy has the Technical Institute of Naval Studies which is located in Dammam where hundreds of enlisted navy personnel are trained.

The Saudi Navy in general and the Eastern Fleet in particular has played a major role in protecting the integrity of Saudi Arabia. This was seen more clearly during the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran, during Desert Shield and Desert Storm at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So, the recent navy exercise Gulf Shield 1 is a continuous signal and reminder that the Saudi Navy and all its personnel are ready and alert to defend Saudi Arabia.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Gulf Shield 1 Showed Saudi Preparedness reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.