Spain hosts 16 nations for mine warfare drill in Western Med

The Spanish Navy-hosted mine countermeasures exercise ESP Minex 19 concluded in the Western Mediterranean Sea on May 10, after two weeks of evolutions.

A US Navy EOD Technician assigned to EODMU8 Mine Countermeasures platoon uses a hand-held sonar system to locate a mine during ESP Minex 19. Photo: US Navy

ESP Minex 19 is an advanced annual exercise for mine countermeasures units and surface, submarine, and air mining and force protection assets.

Participants included 13 MCM vessels, multiple dive teams, and unmanned underwater vehicle systems from Spain, Germany, Turkey, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Belgium, and the United States. Staff augments and observers from Poland, Romania, Brazil, Sweden, and Algeria were also present for the exercise.

ESP Minex focused on sustaining MCM operations in a multi-threat environment and on improving cooperation and effectiveness of allied units and staffs conducting MCM operations in a crisis scenario. During the exercise, US Navy personnel operated onboard four NATO vessels, including Spanish patrol vessel ESPS Tornado, Spanish minehunter ESPS Duero, German tender FGS Werra, and Spanish research ship ESPS Las Palmas.

“[Explosive Ordnance Disposal] technicians from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight (EODMU8) have historically been the main US Navy contribution to this exercise, but this year’s US participation also included personnel from the newly established 6th Fleet Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Detachment from Naval Station Rota, Spain,” said US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan NeSmith, the detachment’s executive officer.

“Sixteen nations and organizations are taking part in this exercise,” said Spanish Navy Capt. Rafael Arcos, commanding officer of the Spanish Mine Countermeasures Force and officer in tactical command of the exercise.

“This year, the air component, the force logistics, the combined international staff, and the complexity – including legal – of the scenario has a deeper footprint compared with previous series.”