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US, UK Forces Conduct Joint Mine Warfare Squadron Exercise

By Commander Task Force 52 Public Affairs | February 03, 2016

MANAMA, Bahrain - Commander, Task Force (CTF) 52 conducted a joint mine countermeasure (MCM) squadron exercise (SQUADEX) with the U.K. Mine Counter Measures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) Jan. 17-22.

The combined task group was led by CTF 52, with the units at sea being commanded by Royal Navy Cmdr. Jools Howe, COMUKMCMFOR commanding officer, embarked on RFA Cardigan Bay (L 3009). 

The exercise involved both independent tasking and task force group exercises designed to enhance mine warfare capabilities, improve interoperability of U.K./U.S. units, and further develop force protection measures.

In order to improve mine-hunting capabilities and build proficiency, a series of exercise mines were laid. USS Gladiator (MCM 11), HMS Chiddingfold (M 37), and HMS Bangor (M 109) worked together, using both Seafox mine disposal vehicles and divers to find and neutralize the mines. In addition to the surface ships, Expeditionary MCM Company 1, U.K. Fleet Diving Unit 3, and the unmanned mine hunting unit worked together to find mines. The units also worked with new technologies to continue to develop more efficient and effective mine detection and disposal methods.

Challenging environmental conditions, including high winds and increasing sea states, put additional time constraints on the units to detect, neutralize, and recover the exercise mines before they became dispersed by the weather. The task group rose to the challenge, sailing two days earlier than scheduled and successfully completing their objectives.

"This SQUADEX was important for cultivating interoperability and exercising a battle staff new to the theatre," said CTF 52 commander, Capt. Eric Wirstrom. "Additionally, this exercise provided U.S. and U.K. forces with an opportunity to develop and assess emergent technology, help operators build proficiency, and integrate new tactics into their standard operating procedures."

CTF 52 provides command and control of all mine warfare assets in the 5th Fleet area of operations.