The HMS Ocean, the flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2, docked in Haifa Port on Thursday and will take part in several joint exercises with the Israel Navy and Air Force.The Standing NATO Maritime Groups (SNMG) are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries.As well as being the flagship of SNMG2, the HMS Ocean is the flagship of the British Royal Navy. The SNMGs also help establish a NATO presence, demonstrate solidarity and conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries.While in Haifa, the HMS Ocean will carry out several drills with the Israel Navy and Air Force, including a land engagement planned around a searchand- rescue operation with some rotary assets of the IAF and a small component of the 120 royal marines onboard the ship.“When we go back to sea, the first thing we are going to be doing is a surface warfare event with the Israeli navy, with some assets acting as if they were a threat to the ship using a range of manned and interestingly unmanned systems to test the force protection of the combined group safely executing Ocean’s departure from Haifa,” said Commodore James Morley aboard the ship, adding that the Israeli Navy will act “as a barrier to get us safely back to sea.”According to Morley, before the ship docked in Haifa, an IAF helicopter brought a team from the ship ashore to discuss exercises.“It’s important for the aircrew and our own aircraft handling teams to get used to operating with aircraft of each other’s navies so that should in the worst situation we will need to do so for real, very quickly we are familiar with each other’s procedures because as you are aware, every navy has a slightly different way of doing things,” he explained. “We are here today as a friend of Israel and a visible demonstration of NATO ’s continued commitment to Israel,” Morley said.“Whilst we are here, we will engage with the Israel Navy leaders in order to create and build opportunities for us to work together. Israel is one of our closest partners and we are moving steadily closer together,” he added.Israel’s relationship with NATO is defined as a “partnership,” and it has been a member of NATO ’s Mediterranean Dialogue since it was initiated in 1994, along with six other non-NATO Mediterranean countries: Jordan, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.But NATO ’s interest in the Mediterranean is increasing, especially with Russia’s growing assertiveness in the region. “There is a need to better understand the region and what is going on in the region,” Morley said, adding that “there is no one better to do that with than the Israeli navy.”HMS Ocean, a 22,000-ton amphibious assault ship, is the UK’s helicopter carrier and the fleet flagship of the Royal Navy. Her primary role is to carry and deliver troops supported by 12 medium lift helicopters, six attack helicopters and four landing craft.Her secondary role includes defense diplomacy, striking targets ashore and providing a limited anti-submarine warfare and a base for anti-terror operations.Before arriving in Haifa, the ship led the British involvement in exercise NIRIS (Networked Inter-operable Real-time Information Services) alongside ships, aircraft and personnel from Greece, Italy, Bulgaria, Israel and the US to test a sizable international naval force and its ability to respond to a major crisis in the region.Commissioned in October 1995, the HMS Ocean is on her final deployment. The carrier and her crew are expected to return to their home port at Plymouth naval base in December, where she will be decommissioned.