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Pacific Pair of Mine Countermeasures Exercises Focus on International Cooperation

Divers jump out of an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter, assigned to the “Vanguard” of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, during a pouncer operation in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2018. U.S. Navy photo

A pair of Pacific mine countermeasures exercises are increasing the U.S. Navy’s ability to incorporate new laser technology and international naval units into mine hunting avoidance activities.

During this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise’s mine countermeasures activities, U.S. Navy and Coast Guard units are working with units from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In total, the Navy states about 1,100 personnel from 26 international units are taking part in the mine countermeasures portion of RIMPAC.

Part of the exercise is assessing the effectiveness of mine countermeasures operations in confined waters. This includes testing the MH-60S Seahawk Airborne Mine Countermeasure systems, which is already approved for use with the Austal-built Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships. This is the first time this system is being used during such an exercise, according to the Navy.

“The training we will complete will increase capability, evaluate new and existing tactics, foster interoperability, and also provide us the opportunity to complete biennial certification of the U.S. Navy’s deployable mine warfare battle staff,” Rear Adm. Dave Welch said in a statement. Welch is the commander of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander.

Much of the exercise involves integrating forces from different navies and practicing mine countermeasures operations. An example from early on in RIMPAC was when U.S. Coast Guard units partnered with Royal Canadian Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) units to conduct maritime interdiction operations, according to a Navy statement.

“The purpose of these operations is to increase capability and to build relationships with our partners. Trust isn’t something you can surge, and it’s critical that we maintain and develop these key relationships for the times we really need to rely on one another,” Welch said in a statement.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Japan, U.S. Navy mine countermeasure units started the annual 2JA exercise with Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force mine countermeasure units and Indian navy EOD units, according to a statement from U.S. Amphibious Force 7th Fleet. The exercise involves hunting for mines with sonar and using EOD units divers to neutralize threats. 2JA culminates with the three navies ensuring a safe route through a simulated minefield.

“This exercise allows us to flex our mine countermeasure muscles and improve interoperability with our JMSDF and Indian Navy teammates,” Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, said in a statement. “The mine countermeasure mission is hugely important to both military and civilian shipping from all nations in the Indo-Pacific region and keeping waterways clear of mine threats is fundamental to national security and the free flow of trade.”

  • Ed L

    Mine hunting is not for the faint of heart. Having been part of operation nimbus star and moon when I was a tender young seaman was a eye opening experience. As a boat crewman on an LCVP we got to work alongside the EOD gliding through clear areas of a mine enroute to a mine that was discover but would not explode. One of those EOD fellows (MC) had been in the navy since the 2nd world war. When those mines exploded it was teeth rattling. Machines are great for detecting a mine. But they cannot think for themselves. Or defuse or safety move a mine from a populated area

    • DaSaint

      I can only imagine!
      This is dangerous work, and we’re fortunate to have fearless men and women serving in these units for us and our allies.

    • Duane

      That is why the Navy has gone all in for remotely operated unmanned systems to detect, classify, and neutralize sea mines.

  • Todd

    hmmm, another major international mine hunting exercise and the mighty mine hunter the LCS is nowhere to be found. Perhaps we should be looking at the “Long-term tie-up” piers and the dry-docks for the mighty LCS, we just might find a few dozen.

    • Duane

      The LCS are busy testing other new equipment like this system, and training new crews for new construction ships.

      Just how do you think this now-operational new system got developed and tested, and made operational for this demo in RIMPAC 2018?


    “Rear Adm. Dave Welch said in a statement. Welch is the commander of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander.”

    Any guess how focused he is on Mine Warfare?

    • Duane

      Someone needs to be so focused. In the last great naval war, in WW2, mines accounted for more shipping losses than all the surface combatants (battleships, cruisers, destroyers, and corvettes) combined. Subs accounted for 55% of all lost tonnage, followed by aircraft carriers and their deployed aircraft (25%), then mines at just over 10%.

  • PolicyWonk

    First we have LCS sea-frames without any useful mission packages, now we have mission packages with any LCS to install them on (capable enough to reliably go to sea).

    I can hardly wait to see how the LCS cheerleading squad tries to explain this away!

    The best part of the mission packages and last minute armaments, such as the box o’ Hellfires for defending against small boat attacks, is that they uniformly demonstrate the appalling waste that is LCS.

    • Duane

      All the development work for this system was done on the LCS, and its primary deployment platform will be MCM-equipped LCS, though various component systems of the MCM MM, such as Knifefish and COBRA and CUSV can also can be deployed from other platforms.

      Yet you continue with your ridiculous propaganda that LCS are non-deployable at this snapshot in time because of the 14 that have been delivered to date, most are fully engaged in training new crews for the new construction ships, or are engaged in testing and integrating the new equipment like this system and others, plus the newest 4 ships that are temporarily in required post shakedown availabilities that all new construction ships must conduct after their shakedown activities.

      So what will be your propaganda spin in a couple months when 4 of the in-service LCS begin their deployments to Singapore and Bahrain, the most dangerous and contested seas on the planet (South China Sea and Persian Gulf)? Or in FY 2020 when 8 are forward deployed to those same 2 foreign bases?

      What then?

      • .Hugo.

        most contested? could be.
        but most dangerous? certainly not. you should check marine insurance cost before you said that.

      • proudrino

        Your constant drumbeat in favor of the LCS would be more credible if you were honest about the shortcomings of the program. You dare talk about propaganda when every single post you make about this overhyped, over budget, underperforming platform claims that the LCS is the best ship ever. Be honest for once, I promise it won’t hurt.