US, UK minehunters team up for Persian Gulf MCM drills

Minehunters from the US and UK kicked off the mine countermeasures exercise 17-1 in the Persian Gulf with a photographic exercise formation on October 19.

The bilateral exercise encompassed the full spectrum of mine countermeasures (MCM) from mine detection and identification to mine clearance with the aim of securing operational readiness of U.S. and U.K. MCM forces.

The photographic exercise, planned to follow the start of the UK portion of the exercise on Oct. 10, involved bringing all participating ships and helicopters into formation. Participating ships included mine countermeasures ships USS Devastator, USS Gladiator and USS Dextrous, RFA Lyme Bay, HMS Middleton, HMS Chiddingfold, HMS Penzance and HMS Bangor, as well as MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters from Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 15 Det. 2.

“Mine countermeasure capabilities are critical to providing unfettered access to strategic and economically important waterways, for both naval vessels and commercial shipping,” said Capt. Eric Wirstrom, commander of CTF 52. “We are exercising well-develop mutual capabilities which address threats to freedom of navigation and international commerce.”

US and UK MCM forces executed a series of MCM exercises in the Persian Gulf last year as part of a cooperative strategy to develop mutual capabilities in fighting threats to international commerce. With three of seven critical maritime chokepoints located in the region and forty percent of the energy vital to the global economy passing through these chokepoints every day, closure of any strategic waterway would have worldwide economic and national security consequences.

“U.K.-U.S. MCM Exercise 17-1 is one of several annual bilateral MCM exercises which allow the coalition forces stationed in The Gulf to hone our skills and be able to respond to any mine threats,” said Royal navy Cmdr. David Morgan, commander, RFA Lyme Bay and head of the coalition task group for the exercise. “By continually training together the MCM component of the Combined Maritime Forces can help to safeguard the free flow of commerce in and out of The Gulf.”