UK, US conclude mine countermeasure drill

The navies of U.K. and U.S. concluded their joint mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise 17-1 in the Persian Gulf, on November 17.

The 38-day, bilateral exercise between the U.S. Navy and U.K. Royal navy was designed to provide an opportunity for both nations to share knowledge of MCM techniques.

U.S. Navy exercise participants included USS Devastator (MCM 6), USS Gladiator (MCM 11), USS Dextrous (MCM 13), and explosive ordnance disposal mobile unit (EODMU) 1, along with Royal Navy MCM ships HMS Bangor (M 109), HMS Chiddingfold (M 37), HMS Penzance (M 106), HMS Middleton (M 34), and auxiliary landing ship dock RFA Lyme Bay (L 3007).

Evolutions were tailored to focus on the cooperative skills of both countries in working together to identify and eliminate mine threats that threaten regional security and the free flow of commerce.

“U.S. and U.K. MCM forces work together on a daily basis, as well as continuously engaging in bilateral exercises and professional exchanges to ensure that we are able to efficiently deter and counter naval mine threats,” said Capt. Eric Wirstrom, commander, Task Force (CTF) 52. “This exercise provided a valuable opportunity for both nations to optimize force interoperability and increase warfighting effectiveness.”

According to the Gladiator crew, the highlight of U.K.-U.S. Mine Countermeasures Exercise 17-1 was the opportunity to practice using a combat SeaFox round — a remotely-operated, unmanned underwater vehicle used to investigate and identify mine contacts on the ocean floor. When a mine is found, a combat round is deployed, detonating a charge next to the mine in order to eliminate the mine threat.

“Deploying and detonating the SeaFox combat round was a unique experience,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kortni Jonker, one of Gladiator’s SeaFox pilots. “It required a focused, coordinated effort between everyone standing watch on deck and in combat information center, because the engagement work-up and execution was different than the usual investigatory SeaFox round. It was great to put our training to practice.”

As part of improving proficiency in mine warfare through force integration among coalition assets, Lyme Bay acted as a command and control station and auxiliary support ship for the exercise.

“Lyme Bay acted as an afloat forward support base for the task group as it holds enough provisions, equipment, and fuel to sustain the task group for the duration of the exercise,” said Royal navy Cmdr. David Morgan, commander of RFA Lyme Bay and head of the coalition task group for the exercise. “It also acted as a launch platform for U.S. Mine Hunting Unit (MHU) and Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure Company (EXMCM) sea boats to conduct their tasks, as well as a landing site for HM (Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron) 15 helicopters; allowing us to refine various MCM capabilities.”