Ministry of Defence logo Defence Staff logo
Mapa del mundo

Spain and the US conduct the bilateral 'Bullshark' exercise for mutual support in cases of rescue of isolated personnel

Gulf of Aden
December 5, 2022
  • The frigate 'Santa María' (F-81) participates in a combined advanced rescue exercise with its air assets, a medical ROLE 2 and a special operations team

The exercise 'Bullshark' for combat search and rescue operations (CSAR), framed within the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2021 between the Operations Command (MOPS) and the US command of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), has been carried out after months of planning.

The exercise consisted of a simulated emergency response to a Spanish P-3 maritime patrol aircraft west of the port of Djibouti, whose coastline simulated a hostile zone. During the event, in order to implement a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that is currently in process of validation, the Spanish and American units had to coordinate in order to rescue the injured.

On one hand, the Spanish special operations team (SOMTU), supported by the 'Santa María' and its air assets (an AB-212 helicopter and a "Scan Eagle" UAV), carried out a shore insertion to rescue two of the wounded crew members surrounded by hostile personnel and vehicles, simulated by the U.S. Army. During the rescue, they were evacuated by helicopter and boat to the 'Santa Maria', where they were treated and stabilised by the ROLE 2 on board.

Simultaneously, two US Marine MV-22 "Osprey" aircraft and a US Air Force parajumpers unit rescued two more injured crew members from the water, assisted by four US Navy patrol boats and four Coast Guard vessels from Djibouti. The rescued personnel were lifted and transferred to the American ROLE 2 at Camp Lemonnier (Djibouti).

The exercise, which was attended by U.S. Army Brigadier General Stephen P. Case, Deputy Commander of the CJTF-HOA, represented a qualitative leap compared to previous editions, both in terms of the level of the units participating and the realism of the action. It also helped to improve interoperability and to strengthen ties between Spanish and American units.