The navies of the US and the UK have successfully conducted the quarterly mine countermeasures (MCM) exercise Squadex-16 in the Arabian Gulf.
UK Mine Countermeasures Force commander David Morgan said that Squadex-16 is aimed at promoting the interoperability of the US and UK naval assets, as well as developing and test their minehunting capabilities.
The exercise witnessed the participation of the US Navy mine countermeasures ships USS Gladiator (MCM 11) and USS Sentry (MCM 3), UK landing ship dock RFA Lyme Bay (L3007) and UK Royal Navy Sandown-class minehunters HMS Bangor (M109) and HMS Penzance (M106).
Royal Navy commodore William Warrender said: "My intent is to maximise the opportunity provided by the Squadex to demonstrate our capability in mine detection and classification, focusing on lessons learned from previous exercises in operator skill and equipment capability, whilst developing coalition interoperability in a MCM environment."
Conducted in conditions such as high sea temperatures and variable depths, the exercise tested the UK and the US naval assets’ ability to detect mines using five different sonars from surface platforms, divers and aircraft.
The exercise also enabled the participating ships to set a more accurate timeline and data to identify the time taken to clear an area of mines.
During the MCM operations, the ships used remote operated vehicles (ROVs), unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and explosive ordnance disposal divers to aid in clearing areas.
Morgan added: "A robust mine countermeasures capability in the (Arabian) Gulf is vital to ensuring that sea lanes remain open and free, to safeguard freedom of navigation and legitimate trade."
The US and UK will continue undertaking joint training exercises to evaluate lessons learned from MCM operations in the US 5th Fleet area of operations.
Image: HMS Bangor conducts mine detection measures during Squadex 2016. Photo: courtesy of US Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Blake Midnight.