April 15, 2024
Bahrain Defence & Security GCC

New commander takes helm of US 5th Fleet in Bahrain

Brad Cooper departs as CENTCOM Deputy Commander

In a formal change of command ceremony at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper handed over the reins of Middle East US naval forces to Vice Adm. George Wikoff on February 1, 2024.

The time-honoured event marked Wikoff’s assumption of command over the US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), the US 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), and the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC).

Cooper, who took charge in May 2021, led over 16,000 US personnel, including sailors, Marines, coastguardmen, and civilians. As CMF commander, he oversaw a 41-nation maritime partnership in one of the world’s most diverse and challenging operational areas.

Maritime security

The change of command ceremony was presided over by Army Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM). In his remarks, Kurilla acknowledged Cooper’s achievements and emphasised the significance of Cooper’s focus on people in ensuring maritime security.

Cooper’s leadership notably advanced US and coalition naval forces through complex joint and combined maritime operational events, contributing to enhanced security and stability in the maritime environment.

His recent efforts included leading operations to counter Houthi malign activities in the Red Sea and reducing Houthi drone and missile capabilities in Yemen.

Under Cooper’s command, the naval unmanned and artificial intelligence task force, Task Force 59, transitioned from experimentation to operations, marking a milestone in using weapons aboard unmanned platforms.

Operation Unified Takedown, spearheaded by Cooper, resulted in the largest seizure of illegal weapons and drugs smuggled out of Iran in the history of Middle East US-led naval operations.

Forging partnerships

Cooper also expanded maritime security partnerships by connecting with Caspian Sea nations and other central European countries.

As Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) commander, he increased the coalition to 41 nations, established two new task forces (CTF-153 and CTF-154), and oversaw operations that confiscated over $1.4 billion in narcotics.

Expressing gratitude to the deployed personnel, Cooper credited their exceptional performance for the achievements during his tour. He is set to report next to Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, as the CENTCOM Deputy Commander.

Assuming command, Vice Adm. George Wikoff, a naval aviator, brings operational experience from various roles, including Acting Commander, Naval Air Forces/Acting Commander, Naval Air Force, and US Pacific Fleet.

Wikoff expressed excitement about leading the CMF and stressed the United States’ commitment to defending freedom of navigation and the rules-based international order.

NAVCENT and US 5th Fleet’s area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water, including the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.

This expanse, comprised of 21 countries, includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

Featured image: Army Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, commander of US Central Command, centre; Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, outgoing commander of NAVCENT, US 5th Fleet and CMF, left; and Vice Adm. George Wikoff, incoming commander of NAVCENT, US 5th Fleet and CMF, right; render honours during a change of command ceremony in Manama, Bahrain, on February 1, 2024. Image: US Navy

Last Updated on 4 weeks by Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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