ARABIAN GULF - Mine countermeasures (MCM) ships from the U.S., UK, and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) completed a MCM exercise in the Arabian Gulf, Oct. 27.
The exercise was part of a routine security cooperation engagement to strengthen partnership between U.S., UK, and Japanese maritime forces while improving tactical proficiency and enhancing MCM capability.
"The purpose of the mine countermeasure exercise was to increase the defensive MCM proficiency of U.S., UK and Japanese maritime forces while expanding levels of cooperation, enhancing mutual maritime capabilities and promoting long-term regional stability and interoperability," said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
Commander, Task Force (CTF) 52 conducted the exercise and included the following assets: mine counter-measure ships USS Gladiator (MCM 11), USS Dextrous (MCM 13), and USS Ardent (MCM 12), auxiliary landing ship dock RFA Lyme Bay, mine hunters HMS Pembroke and HMS Ramsey, and mine countermeasure vessel HMS Quorn along with the JMSDF mine sweeper tender JS Uraga (MST 463) and mine sweeper ocean JS Tsushima (MSO 302).
Sea-based mines can hinder ships transiting critical sea routes and MCM ships are outfitted with the means to detect and disable them, ensuring sea lanes are passable for military, commercial and civilian vessels.
"This has been a hugely successful training exercise in challenging operating conditions, said Lt. Cmdr. Richard Hutchings, commanding officer, HMS Pembroke. "It has demonstrated that our world-leading maritime forces can integrate anywhere in the world to counter a mine threat."
During the exercise, ships from all three maritime forces worked to hunt, detect and recover training shapes. Each maritime force provided explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) divers to aid in the identification and recovery of training shapes in the water.
"We have been staying on the Uraga with four of the Japanese team members while conducting MCM operations," said Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 2nd Class Troy Bristo assigned to Commander Task Group 56.l. "It's really good to work with them, to see how they operate, and compare ourselves to see where we match up."
Japanese divers also found the experience to be invaluable.
"This has been a significant experience for us," said a JMSDF EOD diver "Our language may be different, but we all dive in much the same way."
Gladiator and Uraga hosted officers and enlisted personnel from the other ships in an effort to familiarize crewmembers to the similarities and differences between the two maritime forces.
"What is key in this exercise is practicing interoperability," said Gladiator Commanding Officer, Lt. Cmdr Wayne Liebold. "Practicing this now will make us better partners if we ever have to work together during a real-world event."
Uraga's mine countermeasure officer embarked Gladiator and worked with her U.S. counterparts as Gladiator conducted MCM training and recovered MK 103 sweep gear.
"I helped out with mine-hunting sonar, identifying shapes and with recovering a MK 103," said Uraga's mine countermeasure officer. "Gladiator's crew is very strong and professional. They worked very hard and cooperated with each other to recover the MK 103."
Multilateral exercises not only develop lasting relationships between the participants, they are also excellent opportunities to enhance tactical proficiency between U.S. Navy and its allied partners, refine operators' skills, and develop the foundations necessary for long-term stability.