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Trident tested – Royal Navy joins allied navies in major Gulf minehunting workout

Two US Mk VI Patrol boats shepherd HMS Brocklesby
2 May 2021
Four Royal Navy ships led the way in the largest test of international minehunting forces in the Gulf since the pandemic.

More than 700 personnel – sailors, divers and aircrew – from the UK, US, Australia and France have taken part in Artemis Trident, a two-week workout testing the ability of the four allied nations to keep sea lanes open.

The two-week exercise integrated ships, units and staff from the participating nations to create a potent combined minehunting task force – seven mine warfare vessels, one command ship, a couple of fast patrol boats, three helicopters and three specialist dive teams who can deploy anywhere around the globe.

Support vessel RFA Cardigan Bay acted as flagship throughout – as well as home to a Royal Navy command staff who direct UK mine warfare operations in the Gulf, and a dive team flown out from the UK to hone their expeditionary skills.

Also flying the flag for the UK were three of the Royal Navy’s four minehunters based in Bahrain: HMS Penzance, Brocklesby and Shoreham. 

France provided sister minehunters FS Céphée and L’Aigle, plus a battle staff and dive team, while staff officers from the Royal Australian Navy were among those choreographing the complex force and manoeuvres.

And the US Navy – directing the overall exercise – committed a couple of their Avenger-class minehunters, which work side-by-side with RN forces based in Bahrain; USS Gladiator and Sentry, plus expeditionary minehunting teams. A couple of Mk VI patrol boats provided protection for the force, supported by helicopters including huge Sea Dragons which tow minesweeping equipment through the water.

Run every two years, Artemis Trident expects participants to clear a path through sea mines in response to a fictitious mining incident, while also defending themselves against threats in the air and on the sea, and providing maritime security for other seafarers.

Artemis Trident will provide valuable lessons learned as the Royal Navy moves towards increasing use of offboard, autonomous systems alongside existing capabilities such as clearance divers.

Lieutenant Commander Peter Needle

This was the fifth time it’s been run – and in its 2021 iteration there was a heavy focus on tech, on top of traditional methods as participants tested new techniques and technologies.

The Royal Navy’s Expeditionary Dive Unit 3, based in Portsmouth, deployed an 11-strong team which worked alongside French and US counterparts, deploying autonomous underwater vehicles and clearance divers to find and dispose of mines.

They set up temporary home in the US Naval Base in Bahrain, heading out into the exercise area by boats and raiding craft.

“The exercise provided an excellent opportunity to practise and develop expeditionary mine warfare tactics, techniques and procedures, sharing ideas and experiences between the three nations,” said Lieutenant Commander Peter Needle, Officer in Charge of Expeditionary Dive Unit 3.

“It will provide valuable lessons learned as the Royal Navy moves towards increasing use of offboard, autonomous systems alongside existing capabilities such as clearance divers.”

Lieutenant Commander David Bryden, Commanding Officer of HMS Shoreham embraced the chance to take part in such a varied workout.

“Opportunities like this to exercise with our international partners are invaluable, it helps to reinforce our collective commitment to safe freedom of navigation on the high seas,” he said.

“Working together with other units is very important for command and control and communications, making sure all of our systems work together.”

Commander James Lovell, in charge of the UK’s Gulf-based mine forces, said the opportunity for such a major collective test with close partners was “fantastic”.

“Exercising with our Gulf partners and coalition partners in the region is all about maintaining our military fitness so that we are ready to work together when the time comes.

“Artemis Trident is even more poignant this year as the UK is celebrating its 15th year of a continuous mine warfare presence in the Gulf.”

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