The Royal Navy has been training the Iraqi Navy in Umm Qasr as part of a coalition training team since 2004. Most recently they have been supporting the Iraqi Navy by delivering Swift patrol boat training and mentoring the future Iraqi Navy training staff.
In advance of the first operational patrol the crew had to complete a final sea assessment conducted by a joint Iraqi and coalition team. They passed with flying colours and proceeded on patrol immediately.
The importance of the patrol to the Iraqi Navy was emphasised by it occurring on Iraqi National Army Day - 7 January 2011.
Lieutenant Abdul, the captain of patrol boat 301, said:
"It was a significant day, especially since the patrol was part of the Iraqi National Army Day."
Captain Gary Sutton, Commanding Officer Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission - Navy [ITAM-N] (Umm Qasr), said:
"Today the Iraqi Navy has made a huge step forward with the first Swiftships patrol of ABOT. I am proud of their accomplishment, but I would also like to acknowledge the achievements of the highly professional training and advisory coalition team in ITAM-N whose training of the Iraqi Navy made this possible."
This new class of modern patrol boat marks a significant step forward in the operational capability of the Iraqi Navy.
Built by Swiftships in the USA, these high-speed, 35-metre vessels are armed with the 30mm British MSI gun and are ideal for their role of defending the vitally important Iraqi offshore oil infrastructure.
The Iraqi Navy of 2,500 personnel, 11 patrol boats and 35 fast attack craft will be joined over the next 12 months by a further 14 Swift patrol boats.