UK, US Minehunters Search for Mines off Bahrain

Royal Navy minehunters and their US counterparts have surveyed the sea bed for mines more than 200 nautical miles away from their Bahraini base using a range of autonomous and unmanned systems.

The Task Group was made up of HMS Shoreham and Bangor, the USS Devestator and Gladiator as well as Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay which ensured the ships were supplied with fuel, water and stores while on patrol.

As well as using the specialist minehunting skills of the four ships, the Task Group also made use of cutting edge technology and small boats which were launched from RFA Cardigan Bay.

These meant the team could survey hundreds of miles of seabed at a time to detect what is already on the seabed so that they objects can be discounted if mining is ever suspected in the area in the future.

The Task Group’s commander, Commander Paul Ottewell of the Royal Navy, said:

Though our mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) and embarked expeditionary units are all experts in their own fields, we must be able to operate effectively together, so that we are collectively greater than the sum of our parts.

UK, US Minehunters Search for Mines off Bahrain2

The information brought back from the ships built up a very detailed picture of the seabed on the key shipping routes through a number of key strategic areas in the Gulf. This was achieved through a combination of high-definition sonar, the very latest autonomous surface and underwater vehicles, remotely-operated vehicles and highly-trained mine clearance divers.

These were from the Royal Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU3), usually based at Portsmouth, and a US Navy Expeditionary MCM Company and was the first time they had worked together on operations.

Both are made up of underwater explosive ordnance disposal specialists whose main role is to spot suspicious underwater contacts and then make them safe.

The combined dive teams use remotely operated vehicles fitted with their own sonars, meaning they can identify and dispose of ordnance from afar as well – at much less risk to themselves or their colleagues.

The Task Group was commanded by US Commander Task Force 52 (CTF 52) in Bahrain and tactical control afloat was delivered by the UK’s Mine Warfare Battle Staff (MWBS) embarked on RFA Cardigan Bay.

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Image: Royal Navy