Diver diplomacy the winner at DIVEX 18

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Geoff Long (author and photographer), POIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Creswell, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Creswell, Beecroft Weapons Range, Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS), Mine Countermeasures and Diving Exercise (MCM DIVEX)

Members of the People’s Liberation Army Navy pose with an Australian Navy Clearance Diver LEUT Andrew Thomas and a kangaroo during DIVEX 18 on the Australian south east coast. (photo: LEUT Geoff Long)
Members of the People’s Liberation Army Navy pose with an Australian Navy Clearance Diver LEUT Andrew Thomas and a kangaroo during DIVEX 18 on the Australian south east coast.

Regional relationships have been strengthened following the completion of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) Mine Countermeasures and Diving Exercise (MCM DIVEX).

The Royal Australian Navy was host to this year's MCM DIVEX held at HMAS Creswell over the past two weeks, with 18 nations in attendance. Participating nations were involved in exercises that were aimed at sharing skills and knowledge to ensure that sea lines of communication are open for trade. 

Commander of Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Squadron, Commander Brett Dawe, declared the exercise a success.

“We set out at the start of the exercise to integrate and train to develop our collective ability to conduct mine countermeasures and we have certainly achieved this but with the added bonus of making friends and building cultural understandings around the region,” CMDR Dawe said.

Throughout the two weeks, nations worked co-operatively on a wide array of activities, including the deployment of mine countermeasures divers, the use of the latest autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) technology, live demolitions training and mine exploitation activities. Each of the participating nations undertook live surface demolition training with their Australian counterparts at the nearby Beecroft Weapons Range outside of Creswell.

CPO clearance diver Zecko Paskov, who led the Australian demolitions team, said the objective of the land demolitions was to simulate techniques in an environmentally responsible way.

“The use of the range allows teams to build and simulate charges that would normally be used underwater for mine countermeasures,” CPO Paskov said.

Technology capability is also a key focus of mine countermeasures capabilities. Australia, New Zealand and Singapore all had dedicated teams to operate AUVs to search for and classify possible mines. Collaboration was made easier by each of the countries using the same Remus 100 AUVs, according to Republic of Singapore Navy, 194 Squadron, Captain Kenneth Ng.

“We have a great relationship with Australia and New Zealand and we've been consulting closely on areas such as sonar image interpretation and also technology capability,” Captain Ng said.

This year's MCM DIVEX also hosted a 14-strong team from the Peoples' Republic of China – one of the largest participating nations. Commander Sun Wenjin, China's team liaison officer, said the divers had gained strength by working with other WPNS members and had swapped skills and lessons with the RAN team.

“We value the importance of WPNS and when there is any activity like this we always prepare carefully and with enthusiasm. We hope these activities can continue and we look forward to participating in more of these in future,” CMDR Wenjin said.

Australia has been a WPNS member since the inaugural meeting in Sydney in 1988. The forum is an important gathering of regional navies to discuss a broad range of regional security issue and progress measures to improve the way nations can work together. The event is held every two years.