IMCMEX13: Japanese Anti-Mine Team Embarks RFA Cardigan Bay

Japanese Anti-Mine Team Embarks RFA Cardigan Bay

Japanese mine clearance divers, unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) operators and mine warfare specialists have joined a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship to practise training serials with the UK.

As part of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX13) set in the Middle East, personnel from over 40 countries have descended on the Gulf region to from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) have embarked on board a Royal Fleet Auxiliary warship for the world’s largest mine countermeasures exercise.

Japanese Anti-Mine Team Embarks RFA Cardigan Bay.jpg1The four-man team have joined RFA Cardigan Bay for the two-week International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 (IMCMEX13), currently taking place in the Middle East.

IMCMEX 13 is made up of warships, helicopters, diving teams and command staff personnel from all over the world, and aims to improve and develop the international community’s ability to maintain freedom of navigation worldwide.

By combining such a broad range of capabilities and personnel, the exercise will also help promote cooperation between the navies involved.

The Japanese team is led by Lieutenant Commander Tsurugi Shimokubo, from the JMSDF’s Mine Warfare Force. He said:

“Participation in exercises like IMCMEX is a very high priority for us.

“Japan’s economy relies on oil, so being able to ensure that the global sea lanes remain open is a key area for us.”

Lt Cdr Shimokubo and his team are accompanied by Remus 100 – a highly sophisticated underwater drone that uses several different forms of advanced sonar to detect mines.

During the exercise they have been working very closely with British staff officers and another UUV unit, this time from the United States. Lt Cdr Shimokubo said;

“This is the third time Japanese teams have worked with the US and UK on this kind of exercise.

“Sometimes the language barrier can be very difficult, but we persevere because it is important for all of us to improve our ability to communicate and co-operate with each other.”

During IMCMEX the Japanese team have deployed on several four – to five-hour-patrols, looking for mines and scanning the seabed with Remus 100’s powerful sonar. Sometimes the high-powered sensors pick up more than just mines and rock formation. Lt Cdr Shimokubo laughs:

 “At one point we found an interesting sonar contact on the seabed and moved closer to have a look.

“On our video we found it was not a mine, but a small shoal of fish surrounding a fish trap. It was quite exciting – if we can detect a target that vague, think what we could do against something like a mine.”

It is also the first time the team have deployed aboard a British warship. Lt Cdr Shimokubo explains;

“The culture and life on board are very different.

“But we have found Cardigan Bay to be very comfortable, and the food in particular is very good!”

Press Release, May 23, 2013; Image: Royal Navy