Multinational task for Australian Mine Warfare Team

This article has photo gallery Published on By Andrew Bonallack (author), Royal New Zealand Navy (photographer)

Location(s): Bland Bay, New Zealand

Topic(s): Exercises, Diving Teams, Mine Countermeasures

A diver surfaces in Bland Bay as a boat closes in to collect him. (photo: Unknown)
A diver surfaces in Bland Bay as a boat closes in to collect him.

Fifty navy divers and mine warfare specialists from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Britain converged on Bland Bay, New Zealand for Exercise FULCRUM recently.

The contingent had to locate and dispose of 16 dummy mines of varying shape, size and weight, set throughout the bay.

Australian and British autonomous underwater vehicle teams used remote environmental monitoring units to scan the bay floor and identify mine-like objects.

The US and New Zealand then sent out divers to confirm whether or not they were mines, said Lieutenant Teina Hullena of the Royal New Zealand Navy Clearance Diving Group.

"They would then either 'blow them up' or raise them to the surface for intelligence gathering," Lieutenant Hullena said.

The exercise scenario involved a fictional nation experiencing political and internal unrest, and the government of that country had mined the approach to their harbour to prevent access.

A multinational task force, represented by the divers and specialists, had been sent to find and neutralise the mines.

The task force found all 16 mines by the end of the two-week exercise, said Sub Lieutenant Warwick Creasy of HMNZS Manawanui, the New Zealand navy's diving and mine counter-measures support ship.

Recovery was a joint effort, with all mines floated to the surface.

"This was no mean feat, considering weights of the training mines were up to 500 kilograms," Sub-Lieutenant Creasy said.

Four members of Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 represented the Royal Australian Navy at FULCRUM.

Commanding Officer Australian Mine Warfare Team 16, Lieutenant Commander Ryan Carmichael said engagement opportunities such as the exercise were a critical for the delivery of Australian autonomous underwater vehicle systems, expected in 2018.

Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator - Mine Warfare Chris Carmody said it was an exciting time to be a mine warfare sailor.

"The introduction of maritime autonomous systems puts our category at the forefront of developing technologies," he said.

"Exercise FULCRUM gave us the opportunity to work side-by-side with experienced underwater vehicle teams from around the world, greatly enhancing our own skills and knowledge of the equipment."