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International Mine Countermeasures Exercise

International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) is a serial-driven exercise consisting of multiple mine countermeasures (MCM), maritime security operations (MSO) and maritime infrastructure protection (MIP) events planned to be conducted in the Arabian Gulf, Sea of Oman, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea.  Partner nations are invited to participate in multiple areas to include as members of the International Maritime Exercise Force (IMEF), whose responsibility it will be to execute command and control of the exercise.

IMCMEX, hosted by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) /U.S. 5th Fleet, will be conducted in four phases:

  • Phase 0: Staff build-up and Training
  • - Early arrival staff Reception, Staging, Onward movement, and Integration (RSO&I)

  • Phase 1: Seminars and Table-top discussions
  • - A Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium (MIPS)

    - A Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) Seminar

    - A Distinguished Visitor Day

    - Arrival and Pre-sail conferences

    - Tabletop Exercises

  • Phase 2: At-sea Fleet Training Exercise (FTX)
  • Ashore and afloat operations to include air, surface and underwater MCM, MSO coordinated with industry and commercial shipping, and harbor force protection scenarios incorporating unmanned underwater vehicles and marine mammals

  • Phase 3: Hot-wash and Redeployment of Forces
  • Participants discuss best practices and lessons learned for future exercise


Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) Seminar

A Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) Seminar will be conducted in Manama, Bahrain during Phase 1 operations of IMCMEX. The VBSS Seminar will lead by the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) and hosted at U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Engagement Team (MET) facilities.

This Boarding Seminar will include up to 60 members from regional maritime partners and consist of the following goals and objectives:

  • Share Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) best practices and procedures
  • Develop interoperability amongst regional maritime partners through practical VBSS application
  • Build on lessons learned from previous Boarding Seminars
  • Improve relationships through engagement and sharing of ideas
  • Strengthen maritime security by developing common VBSS skills across regional partners

Each aspect of the boarding seminar is designed to promote teamwork and create an environment where individual nations can learn VBSS tactics from each other.

Maximum collaboration will be achieved by ensuring the following:

  • The group of 60 will be broken into four teams. Each team will consist of different nations.
  • MET personnel will facilitate various VBSS stations, but will ask participating nations to demonstrate their country specific way of performing each task. This interaction will result in shared ideas and broad perspectives on the best way to accomplish the mission.
  • At the conclusion of each VBSS station, MET personnel will encourage robust dialogue on lessons learned and best practices.
  • Hands-on exercises will be jointly executed by all participants (within each team).
  • Participants may be asked to role play during practical exercises. Role playing is an excellent way to learn from one another.
International Maritime Exercise Force

One of the chief lessons learned from previous exercises was the value of command and control (C2). How do we communicate with so many nations, and communicate effectively enough to exercise the tactics, techniques and procedures to conduct MCM operations … and then to do all of that securely?

In previous years we encountered difficulties and impediments inherent in most international exercises – some nations don’t have the ability to talk securely at sea, others have systems that are not necessarily compatible. So we have spent that last several months working to better integrate our communications. We think we have that part right and that understanding will enhance this exercise. In the end, the basic tactics and techniques of finding mines, identifying mines, and then neutralizing the mines are relatively universal across the force we have assembled.


Maritime Security Operations

Maritime Security Operations (MSO) are international forces working with industry representatives to protect and defend shipping while it is transiting through global commerce lanes.

The primary forces that contribute to MSO are escort ships, embarked security personnel, and visit, board, search and seizure teams deployed to support the transit of shipping. Joined with MIP and MCM operations, MSO completes the "port to port" concept of protecting shipping and commerce from its point of origin to its destination.

Separately, each mission area is vulnerable as their expertise is high, but scope limited. Together, however, they are a formidable defensive mechanism--made of a variety of international forces--capable of protecting shipping from violent extremist threats.

Distinguished Visitor Day

The Distinguished Visitor Day provides senior leadership and exercise participants an opportunity to observe exercise command and control centers and training facilities, conduct ship tours and site visits, and receive briefings on emerging technologies and capabilities that will be incorporated in the exercise. Specific Distinguished Visitor Day tour highlights are as follows:

  • International Maritime Exercise Force (IMEF) Headquarters
  • Participants will be briefed on the exercise command and control structure

  • Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) Seminar
  • Participants will view VBSS Seminar participants utilizing training facilities

  • Ship Tours
  • Opportunity of tour participants to visit ships participating in the exercise

  • Technology Demonstration
  • Distinguished Visitors and tour guide participants will have an opportunity to view and discuss emerging technologies and capabilities that will be incorporated in the exercise. Specific items to be discussed include the Air Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), Mk 18 Modifications 1 and 2 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), and Marine Mammal System (MMS)

Mine Countermeasures

Previous exercises relied solely on surface, air, and undersea mine countermeasures (MCM) operations. Though this year's focus has broadened, the three areas of MCM operations are as vital as ever to the mission of keeping international sea lanes clear of mines and seaborne improvised explosives.

As mentioned, there are three pillars of MCM:

  • Air MCM is conducted by heavy-lift helicopters that engage in sweeping operations with a towed array that can sweep for a variety of mine types while maintaining a safe distance from the towed device in the event it discovers an activated threat.
  • Surface MCM has a multitude of variety in the international community. Primarily, however, there are two kinds of activities that surface ships engage in: minehunting and mine sweeping.
    • Mine hunting is an operation where sonar seeks potential threats and, when discovered, an unmanned vehicle or trained specialists seek and identify an object. When identified as a hazard, the specialists and unmanned device effect the same end: detonation. They use different methods, but the end is the same--the hazard is neutralized and the sea lane is made safer.
    • Mine sweeping is an entirely different activity. It uses mechanical, acoustic and magnetic devices that are dragged behind ships or aircraft to purposefully trigger a device to detonate.


  • Undersea MCM employs unmanned underwater vehicles and divers to identify and neutralize potential mine or sea borne improvised threats.
Maritime Infrastructure Protection

Maritime Infrastructure Protection (MIP) focuses on protecting the points of origin and destinations of shipping. Security from "port to port" ensures that threats to shipping and commerce are not only a consideration while operating at sea, but begin where goods and people embark on their journey through the global commons that are international shipping lanes.

To effect these changes, the international community employs a variety of forces--such as shore and harbor patrol craft; visit, board, search and seizure teams; and helicopter support to name a few--to prevent violent extremist threats from affecting the flow of goods and services.

During IMCMEX, U.S. and international partners will be practicing MIP techniques by exercising harbor security forces, VBSS teams, small boat operators, helicopter crews, and embarked staff aboard afloat staging bases to better coordinate with each other and to hone their skills for future exercises or to utilize in the event of a crisis.

In addition to the at-sea MIP activities, there will be an international symposium that will serve as a forum to exchange ideas and discuss new developments in infrastructure protection techniques. Information dedicated to the MIP Symposium can be found on this page.