Amirah Ibrahim reports on Bright Star, the biennial military exercise which this week ends its second phase
Tactical air droppings and amphibious landings featured prominently in Bright Star 2009, the multinational military exercise which entered its second phase this week and involves troops from 12 countries.
Exercises are spearheaded by Egypt and the US and involve a coalition of military forces from France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sami Anan and US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey attended Monday's amphibious landing at Alamein.
Highlights of this year's exercise included a multinational paratrooper jump involving 600 troops and a ship- to-shore operation with over 1,000 marines storming the beach. Airborne, naval and marine field training exercises were all monitored by multinational command post battle-trackers.
Amphibious exercises, once a mainstay of Bright Star war games, were suspended in 2007 only to make a reappearance this year. Some 18 naval units, together with 92 aircraft, participated in landings on Monday near Alamein.
In addition, soldiers from Egypt, Germany, Kuwait and Pakistan made parachute jumps with members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg last week. The Division hosted the Fort Bragg portion of the exercises between 28 September and 11 October, with more than 100 troops from four countries participating alongside the Americans.
In a press conference on 7 October, Air Marshal Benjamin Barttlet, the US training commander for Bright Star 2009, provided details about the exercise: "US participation in Bright Star has been, and will continue to be, a keystone event in our common coalition training programme," he said. "The exercise as a whole allows soldiers from the different militaries to see how their allies operate, to exchange experiences and learn from each other. We expect to build upon past successes and continue to have a positive effect on the future of international and regional military cooperation."
Major General Ibrahim El-Damati, Bright Star 2007's exercise director, lauded the fact that a total of 17,000 soldiers from 12 countries were taking part. "For the participants Bright Star provides an opportunity to get acquainted with each other's equipment, tactics and training. The exercise is designed to improve readiness and interoperability and to strengthen relationships between Egypt, the US and other participating forces," said El-Damati.
Bright Star 2009 activities, said El-Damati, are divided into four phases.
"The first phase, devoted to strategic preparation, took place between 20 September and 10 October. The second, tactical and pre-training, phase started on 10 October and is due to finish on 20 October. The third phase is between 21 and 27 October and involves a seminar attended by senior leaders from participating nations that will allow for an exchange of views and a discussion of the lessons learned. The final phase is when troops depart Egypt, starting from 16 October until 10 November."
Planning for Bright Star 2009 began early last year. "Planners from 12 countries, covering all the branches of the armed services, attended coordination conferences, with approximately 300 planners at each," says El-Damati.
Bright Star 2009 will eventually have encompassed 186 activities. "Exercises are carried out by air forces, navy and special units. This year sees a number of new items including a joint command project for electronic war game between Egypt and the US Virginia command centre," El-Damati explained.
Since it began in 1981 Bright star has grown into a multinational event. It is the centerpiece in military-to-military relations between the US and Egypt.
In 1995 exercises expanded to include troops from the United Arab Emirates, France and the United Kingdom, as well as observers from the Middle East and Western countries. Bright Star grew again in 1997, when more NATO nations, including Germany, were invited to take part. By 1999 it involved more than 70,000 troops from 11 nations, including the Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Jordan.
The exercise was called off twice, first in 1991, when US and Egyptian troops were involved in liberating Kuwait, and again in 2003, as US troops invaded Iraq. Bright Star is designed to build teamwork and cohesion between military forces from allied nations.