British mine experts observe Japanese 2JA 2016 exercise

Royal Navy mine disposal experts watched their Japanese counterparts work during the large-scale exercise 2JA 2016.

Two British observers joined the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force at its major annual test of its minehunting forces in Mutsu Bay at the northern tip of main island of Honshu.

Some 20 Japanese minehunters were involved in the exercise, centred on Ominato Naval Base, about 400 miles north of Tokyo.

The ships left port in formation for what was a test of the core of the Japanese mine warfare forces to see whether they could deal with all possible underwater explosive devices.

They were expected to locate and neutralise mechanical and influence mines – the former detonate if struck by a ship or submarine, the latter blow up when ‘influenced’ by a passing vessel, such as detecting its magnetic field, propellers or noticing changes in water pressure.

On top of that, the Japanese were also keen to develop their use of autonomous minehunting systems – a field the RN is particularly keen on, especially with Unmanned Warrior looming in Scotland in October; that sees companies from around the world demonstrating what their hi-tech systems can bring to naval warfare.

“This is the first time that Royal Navy observers have attended the Japanese mine counter-measures exercise and it comes at a time when we’re seeking to revolutionise our operations incorporating greater use of autonomous technology,” said Lieutenant Simon Reeves, Executive Officer of Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Hurworth.

He observed the exercise alongside Commander Donald Crosbie, the Royal Navy’s Liaison Officer with the Japanese Navy and the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, based in the Far East, plus colleagues from South Korea and Australia.