Why has Brazil decided to join the Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) and what is the process for becoming Commander of the task force? How many other countries you command in the mission, how many Brazilians officers are participating as well and how long will the mission last?
The decision to participate in the CTF-151 is relevant to reinforce Brazil's position as an actor capable of contributing positively to the effort to maintain and secure sea lines of communication and the freedom of navigation.
Since 2013, Brazilian Navy has sent officers to act initially as a Liaison Officer (LNO) and later as a Senior National Representative (SNR) at the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF). Such presence strengthens and reinforces cooperation ties with the other 33 states that are part of the coalition, led by the US Navy (USN). The Commander of US Naval Central Command (NAVCENT) is also the Commander of the 5th Fleet and the CMF Commander. Over time, Brazil has also received invitations to participate in the General Staff of the CTF-151, demonstrating its interest in increasing Brazil's participation in the CMF.
In 2019, Brazilian Navy was invited to assume the command of the CTF-151, to be exercised by a Rear Admiral, accompanied by a Staff composed of 10 Brazilian officers. In addition to Brazilians, we invited other countries to complete this Staff. Currently, the CTF-151 team is composed of the Commander and ten Brazilian officers, and 12 foreigners from Bahrain (2), South Korea (1), Italy (2), Japan (1), Jordan (2) Kuwait (1), Oman (1), Pakistan (1) and Turkey (1).
Brazil’s tenure is from 9 June to 18 November 2021. During this time, several changes are being carried out at CMF, related to the composition of the three CTFs, the operational ways of the staffs and the conduct of the daily services, at the Operation’s Center.
At the same time Brazil assumed the CTF-151 Command, we began to operate in the same Battle Watch Floor with the CTF-150 and soon the three CTFs will be operating in the same compartment, which facilitates the integration of forces, the exchange of information and mutual support, when necessary.
Does CTF-151 have other secondary responsibilities other than combating piracy in the region?
Yes, the ships and maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) also provide information and participate in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations, whenever necessary. In addition to the counter piracy tasks, our mission includes Key Leadership Engagements with local authorities in order to enhance support from those countries and to help them build better capacity, where needed.
How do you coordinate with other missions in the area, such as with European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Somalia — Operation Atalanta, given the similar mandates?
We work closely with EUNAVFOR TF-465, coordinating efforts and sharing information on a daily basis. Their mandate includes counter piracy operations, as well as other Maritime Security Operations (MSO), and those are also CMF tasks, related to CTF-150. MSO is related to countering drugs, weapons, charcoal and people smuggling, or other illicit activities that may be happen at sea.CTF-151 and TF-465 coordinate their efforts for mutual support and to avoid that ships and aircrafts operate at the area at the same time.
Which missions have you participated in prior to CTF-151 and how do you believe this new experience will help to contribute to future missions in the Brazilian Navy?
I was Chief of Staff of the 9th and 10th Brazilian Contingents of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from February 2015 to February 2016. In addition, I took the Naval Command College course at the US Naval War College in 2017-2018 with representatives from another 48 countries.
Certainly, the experience of participating and commanding a multinational force can contribute to the improvement of our personnel and preparation for future operations, in Brazil or in an international environment. On a daily basis, we interact with several countries in the coalition, with common interests, but with limitations imposed by the respective political and strategic levels. Respecting and understanding cultural differences is essential to maintain an excellent work climate, where cooperation is essential. The navies have a very similar culture, regardless of their country of origin. Understanding, flexibility of thought and initiative are part of our naval cultures. The difficulties are invariably circumvented, within the limits of each CMF country, in favor of the mission that all the countries have decided to accept.
Other than the USA and Canada, Brazil is the only country in the Americas to participate in CTF-151. How do you think other countries perceive Brazil’s new role in the mission?
We have been at the CMF for eight years now, and Brazil has always had a proactive participation. We have permanent support from all participating countries, whether with ships and aircraft, in direct or indirect support, patrolling our areas under the coordination of the CTF-151; or through information interchange related to our mission. The interaction between the three CTFs and with CMF staff is constant, as well as with EUNAVFOR TF-465.
Leonardo Mattos is a Retired Brazilian Navy Captain and Geopolitics Professor at the Brazilian Naval War College.
Melissa Rossi is a researcher at the Brazilian Naval War College and EGIC Steering Committee Member.