Royal Navy’s Ships Prepare to Join Massive Mine Warfare Exercise

Royal Navy's Ships Prepare to Join Massive Mine Warfare Exercise

Royal Navy warships will join vessels from two dozen other nations in one of the biggest minehunting exercises ever staged in the Middle East next week.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond today committed Britain’ Gulf-based minehunters to the 11-day ‘work-out’ which will be spread across some 2,000 miles of ocean.

Led by the Americans’ Naval Forces Central Command, IMCMEX 12 – International Mine Counter Measures Exercise – aims to test the abilities of different nations to work together to keep the sea lanes open and hunt underwater explosive devices in some of the most challenging waters imaginable.

The RN has maintained a permanent mine warfare force in the Gulf for six years; it currently comprises HM Ships Ramsey, Shoreham, Quorn and Atherstone, plus a ‘mother ship’, RFA Cardigan Bay.

Visiting Bahrain – the hub of the Royal Navy’s effort east of Suez – Mr Hammond joined Ramsey, where he announced the Senior Service’s participation in the exercise and discussed the RN’s ongoing mission in the region, courtesy of the staff of the UK Maritime Component Command – the UK’s senior naval staff east of Suez.

In addition to the mine force, HMS Diamond is currently on patrol in the Gulf while HMS Sutherland is prowling the Indian Ocean in search of criminal activity as part of the international effort to safeguard the highways of the Seven Seas.

When it begins on September 16, IMCMEX will be divided into three distinct areas: one off Bahrain, another in the Gulf of Oman, and the third near the Bab-al-Mandeb Strait at the gateway to the Red Sea.

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet members of the Royal Navy in the Gulf and see first-hand the excellent work they are doing in the region protecting the UK’s interests and those of the global maritime community,” Mr Hammond said of his visit to Ramsey and the UKMCC team.

“The UK is committed to a standing presence in the Gulf to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters such as the Strait of Hormuz.

“International Mine Counter Measures Exercise 2012 is part of this work, and will allow the Royal Navy to showcase its cutting-edge mine counter measure experience, expertise and technology. It is also an excellent opportunity to work with other nations to enhance international cooperation and interoperability with others operating in this crucial field.”

Cdre Simon Ancona, United Kingdom Maritime Component Commander, added:

“As a professional naval force acting to protect legitimate maritime activities and secure the freedom of navigation for seafarers the Royal Navy is pleased to support this initiative and looks forward sharing experiences with all participating members.”

Naval Today Staff, September 12, 2012; Image: Royal Navy