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Amphib Landing Demonstrates Interoperability

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

EL-OMAYID, Egypt, Oct. 26, 1999 – Had Bright Star's amphibious landing been solely an American exercise, it would have been nothing special -- the U.S. Marines have been amphib experts for more than 200 years.

What made the demonstration remarkable was the players and how they were getting to the beach. Amphibious operations are among the more difficult ones in the military. Split second timing is necessary, and that's tough to do even when one country is involved. At Bright Star here, six nations contributed amphibious expertise and five others contributing air and land forces.

From the Dutch soldiers who stepped from a British C-47 helicopter to the U.S. Navy air-cushioned landing craft carrying Egyptian M-60A3 main battle tanks ashore, the operation was a model of timing and interoperability.

Interoperability is a NATO term hatched in the mid-1970s. It means militaries being able to operate together. NATO showed interoperability during Operation Allied Force, the most successful air campaign in history.

But interoperability on the scale of the Bright Star landings is something new to the U.S. Central Command area. Air, ground, naval and special operations taking part came from Egypt, the United States, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, France, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Germany.

Offshore, about more than 20 ships launched the landing force under the overall command of a British commodore. The demonstration scenario was a typical amphibious assault, starting with the Egyptians taking air superiority over the landing beaches.

Egyptian, British and Dutch special operations members landed in rubber rafts. In a real situation, these specialists would direct fire and request air support.

U.S. Marine AV-8B Harriers from the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group screamed over the beach demonstrating close air support. The weather, while sunny, was humid and fog formed just behind the cockpits of the aircraft as they made turns.

The actual assault phase followed. First, U.S., British, Egyptian, Dutch, Italian and Greek troops landed via helicopters. Then a combined rifle company of U.S., Greek, Italian and British troops landed from Italian, British and U.S. craft.

Egyptian airborne troopers landed next, storming ashore in a British landing craft and shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!") at an invisible enemy. Shortly after, a company of U.S. Marines landed in amphibious assault vehicles. They screamed "Go! Go! Go!" as they poured from the back of the vehicle.

Next came the largest vehicles to land on the beach -- the Navy's landing craft air cushion, or LCACs. Four of the hovercraft carried Egyptian and U.S. tanks from the USS Bataan right onto the beach. Egyptian airborne forces also rode a British light hovercraft from an Italian ship. Combat support equipment piled out of a British vehicle landing craft.

By the end of the demonstration, observers had seen planning and teamwork -- interoperability -- in action.

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