Israel and the UK were able to train together as part of a NATO-led drill dubbed “Crystal Sea 2020”, held from 13-23 October. The other countries involved were Italy, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.

“It was an example of partnership between the Israeli Navy and NATO. This is the second joint exercise of its kind between NATO maritime forces and the IDF,” said Capt. Yuval Ilan, who heads the Planning and Organisation Department in the Navy.

Two NATO helicopters practiced flying personnel from ships at sea to Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, said Ilan. In addition, an Israeli Navy travelled to a NATO ship to practice providing medical treatment to on-board personnel.

“Among the capabilities we established is a surgery room on one of our major ships,” Ilan stated, speaking to journalists by conference call. “We in the Israeli Navy and IDF [Israel Defense Forces] welcome cooperation with NATO. I am really happy to say that NATO sees the Israeli Navy as a partner in the eastern Mediterranean, in this case, for medical aid.”

During the drill, the commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, Vice Admiral Keith Blount from the Royal Navy, visited Haifa Naval Base, where he met with senior naval officials, including the Rear Admiral David Saar Salama, Israeli Navy Chief of Staff.

“The goal of the visit was for NATO to understand the Israel Navy and the IDF better. We discussed with him how to deepen cooperation on various topics. The visit was excellent for both parties,” said Ilan.

The last such visited occurred a few years ago, he added, and “it’s really important that it happened here. It shows a desire to continue and even expand cooperation with the IDF.”

Relations between the Israel Navy and NATO have grown stronger after the drill, the officer said, adding that “in our arena, it’s really important that we all understand each other, especially in a medical situation. If someone at sea needs assistance, we want to and we can give them aid.”

Asked by JNS whether this cooperation could expand in the future into ways to deal with common threats, Ilan said it was a possibility. He stressed that medical assistance was the “basics when you work at sea,” emphasising that knowing how to communicate, maneuver and land helicopters between ships were key tools for saving lives.

NATO has now recognised the Israeli Navy as a key medical-assistance partner in the Mediterranean following the drill.

Source: Israel Hayom

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