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Present and future mine forces train together in Gulf

HMS Chiddingfold leads HMS Shoreham (nearest the camera) and HMS Penzance, frigate HMS Montrose and RFA Lyme Bay and two US Navy Mark VI combat boats during Exercise Interop
20 July 2021
The Royal and US navies tested traditional and future minehunting techniques and equipment in the first of new regular training exercises in the Gulf.

Crewed and uncrewed minehunters from the two allies worked side by side as the Royal Navy’s entire presence in the Gulf – five warships and one support vessel, involving upwards of 500 men and women – took part in Exercise Interop.

All four minehunters – HMS Brocklesby, Chiddingfold, Penzance and Shoreham – and their mother ship, RFA Lyme Bay, which has recently arrived in the region as the floating headquarters/warehouse/supermarket/petrol station for British and partner mine warfare vessels, took part, plus the USS Sentry.

The exercise demonstrated the continued ability of the two allies to work together seamlessly, with the added frisson of autonomous minehunting systems operating alongside conventional vessels, all directed by the UK Mine Countermeasures Force (UKMCMFOR) battlestaff from Lyme Bay.

“The battlestaff used this period to rehearse and develop Coalition mine countermeasures task group operations, for use in both peacetime and times of conflict,” said Commander Anthony Pimm, the mine force’s commander.

“The opportunity to exercise with the UK’s close American partners promotes interoperability between the two nations and reinforces the collective commitment to safe freedom of navigation on the high seas.”

Working together with the US Navy reassures our allies of our commitment to maritime security in the Gulf and demonstrates how UK procedures and equipment continue to provide a world-class minehunting capability

Lieutenant Commander Graeme Hazelwood, Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance

While Britain basks in a heatwave, the peak in the UK today still doesn’t reach the lowest temperature sailors and Royal Marines in Bahrain are enduring – and conducting business as usual out in the Gulf.

The group focused on providing a detailed survey of waters supposedly peppered with mines – using the five minehunters, autonomous systems and dive teams.

HMS Montrose’s participation allowed the frigate, which is based long-term in Bahrain and provides wider security for shipping in the Gulf and Indian Ocean, to co-ordinate a swarm attack in on the minehunters which were expected to fend off US Navy fast patrol boats as well as Montrose’s RIBs, testing the gunnery skills of the hunters’ crews and their vessels’ manoeuvrability.

“This exercise has allowed my team to put their tried-and-tested minehunting skills to good use, as well as giving us the opportunity to integrate with the battlestaff,” said Lieutenant Commander Graeme Hazelwood, Commanding Officer of HMS Penzance.

“Working together with the US Navy reassures our allies of our commitment to maritime security in the Gulf and demonstrates how UK procedures and equipment continue to provide a world-class minehunting capability.”

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