Australian Navy Clearance Divers Play Key Role at RIMPAC 2012, USA

Australian Navy Clearance Divers Play Key Role at RIMPAC 2012, USA

Australian Navy Clearance Divers are playing a key role at RIMPAC 2012, both in Hawaii and on the US mainland.

Their focus is on mine countermeasures – the largest collection of Mine Counter Measures (MCM) capacity ever deployed by Australia on this exercise.

Commander Doug Griffiths is in charge of the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group.

He is spending this RIMPAC in San Diego where he is in charge of multi-national force of 500 people with divers from the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Chile and New Zealand.

“The reason to deploy to San Diego and not Hawaii is based on the availability of assets and the quality of the training area available”, Commander Griffiths said.

“Hawaii doesn’t have the same extensive Mine Counter Measure ranges that San Diego has.”

Australian Clearance Diving Team – Four (AUSCDT-4) is taking full advantage of the training facilities, carrying out maritime advanced force operations in very shallow water – a major challenge for any clearance diver.

At night or in daylight, the diver conducts a basic hydrography survey before assessing whether the beach is suitable for a landing, while at the same time seeking safe access through an area that may be mined.

In another RIMPAC first, the team is also using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to further enhance their MCM capability.

The San Diego training also offered the Australians an opportunity to combine Air, Surface and Underwater elements into the one exercise. One evolution involved the Australians jumping from a US Helicopter. CMDR Griffiths said the “pouncer” activity provided another rare opportunity for his team.

“The divers concentrate on the entry into the water. A MH-53 has a massive down draft and this affects the position of the diver as they exit the helicopter.

“It’s important to land correctly as the job of the diver is not finished upon entry. Normally they would be proceeding directly to a floating mine and disposing of it.”

CMDR Griffiths says the greatest challenge at RIMPAC is also the most rewarding.

“Its all about learning from each other – RIMPAC brings together so many of us from so many different backgrounds, we will come away from San Diego better prepared and more capable of working together in any environment.”

Naval Today Staff, August 6, 2012; Image: Australian Navy