The IMX 19 (International Maritime Exercise) that took place in the Middle East recently gathered 30 ships and over 50 nations for two weeks of mine countermeasures evolutions.
Spread across a vast area from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean and Gulf, the exercise will see participants sharing knowledge, equipment and experience to defeat the practice mines scattered in the ocean.
Two of the four British minehunters based in the Middle East – HMS Brocklesby and Ledbury – are involved in the exercise, plus a battle staff, specialist dive team and support ship RFA Cardigan Bay.
The latter normally acts as a mother ship to the Royal Navy’s minehunters, providing them with fuel, food and ammo to sustain operations for extended periods.
Lieutenant Koji Oda’s team of divers from Yokohama in Japan operates much of the same equipment as his British counterparts, such as the REMUS automated sonar scanner; the French Navy have brought hand-held sonars which give divers a real-time scan of the seabed in front of them; and the US Navy have deployed both divers and remote-controlled fast boats towing sonar which can find mines without putting a human being in the danger zone.
“This exercise has grown enormously since those held in 2014 and 2016. This has been 18 months in the planning with more nations taking part than before,” says Commander Simon Cox, in charge of the British battle staff aboard Cardigan Bay directing the dive team element of the exercise.
“Mines remain a threat. A mine costing relatively little can inflict damage far beyond its cost.”