Four Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) departed Bahrain recently for a ten-day exercise with their counterparts from the US Navy in the Gulf.
The exercise is designed to enable the two navies to further develop mine hunting techniques in the warm, shallow waters of the Middle East, which form a busy and important maritime environment.
For the Royal Navy, it is also an opportunity for the Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force to direct a bilateral, multi-ship mine countermeasures task force at sea.
The British contingent consisted of two Hunt Class MCMVs, HMS Middleton and HMS Chiddingfold, and two Sandown Class vessels, HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke. The Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship RFA Lyme Bay has also joined the exercise as the afloat headquarters.
The UK ships were joined by four ships from the US Navy’s Avenger Class – USS Ardent, USS Dextrous, USS Gladiator and USS Scout.
Commander David Bence, Commander UK Mine Countermeasures Force, said:
“Sea mines and unexploded ordnance have the potential to cause great disruption to international shipping lanes, restricting freedom of the seas and damaging world economies.
“The Royal Navy is at the forefront of mine countermeasure capabilities in experience, expertise and in technology. It is important that we maintain these capabilities across a range of different environments, from the cold Atlantic to the warmer coastal waterways of the Middle East.
“This exercise was an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to deploy an expeditionary mine countermeasures task force and battle staff in conjunction with international partners.”
The four British MCMVs are forward deployed to Bahrain for several years at a time. They are maintained locally and crew members are rotated with counterparts in the United Kingdom on a regular basis.
They are among several Royal Navy warships and auxiliaries operating in the Middle East region, undertaking maritime security operations such as counter-piracy and counter-terrorism alongside partner nations from NATO, the European Union Naval Force and the 24-nation Combined Maritime Force.