World’s longest mine countermeasures exercise concludes

The United States Navy staged multifaceted mine countermeasures training with six nations for over four weeks, during exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016, June 30 through August 4.

This year’s participants in Southern California included the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, German Armed Forces, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Mexican Navy and Chilean Navy.

Partner nations detected and disposed of 77 training mines over the course of more than 2,000 evolutions. Included in the exercises were mine hunting, identification, clearance and disposal operations. In total, the events involved over 300 flight hours, more than 200 hours of Marine Mammal System operations, 34 helicopter cast and recovery operations, 78 operational dives, and 77 autonomous underwater vehicle evolutions.

“One of the purposes of RIMPAC is to increase interoperability with partner nations,” said Capt. Robert Baughman, vice commander of Task Force 177 for the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. “Through working together, we strengthened friendships and partnerships, so if we have to conduct a mine warfare clearance operation, we are capable, adaptive partners.”

Baughman explained the exercise was also host to several first time occurrences.

Amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52) was joined by partner nation underwater mine countermeasure forces and used as an afloat forward staging base. MH-53 Sea Dragons attached to Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14 performed deck landing qualifications on Pearl Harbor’s flight deck, and Marine Mammal Systems were embarked aboard the LSD platform for the first time.

These firsts during RIMPAC SOCAL 2016 provided a distinct and unique environment and experience for participants.

“This has been a very robust operation.” said Cmdr. David Burke, Commander, Task Force 177 battle staff director. “Access to the seas and water ways is critical for economic productivity and a nation’s ability to sustain themselves. It is important to be able to open them up in the event they’re closed as a result of a mine warfare threat.”

“It’s always a challenge when you bring in so many different units with different backgrounds, tactics, attitudes and procedures,” said Royal Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. Fletcher Wall. “We have achieved the objective of being capable, adaptive partners. The bottom line is we ensured that everyone learned to work together to conduct a successful, real-world mine countermeasures mission.”

Twenty-six nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC from June 30 to August 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.