After the longest transit ever completed by Australian Minehunters, HMA Ships Gascoyne and Huon have contributed to Multi-National Navy Mine Warfare Exercise 2018 (MNMIWEX) in the Republic of Korea.
The contribution to the MNMIWEX is a key component of the Minehunters’ north-east Asian deployment. This is the furthest north Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Minehunters have deployed and the first time units of this type have visited the Republic of Korea.
The visit of the Minehunters to the region follows the recent RAN contribution of HMAS Melbourne attending the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) International Fleet Review.
Both Gascoyne and Huon conducted a lengthy transit of more than 4,000 nautical miles to the exercise via stops in Darwin and Subic Bay. The transit presented an opportunity for both units to conduct navigational training in confined waters while conducting in company force protection drills.
The first element of the MNMIWEX was the mine warfare symposium, where 13 nations gathered to share mine countermeasure warfare knowledge. The symposium culminated in ‘table-top’, exercises and scenarios of shared skills and experiences, further building on multinational mine warfare interoperability. The symposium provided an opportunity to gain an insight into the Korean and American mine hunting communities and develop an understanding of the role, tactics and capabilities of the United Nations Sending States (UNSS) Mine Hunting Force.
According to Commanding Officer, HMAS Gascoyne, Lieutenant Commander Richard Brickacek, mine hunting conditions in the exercise area posed a challenge to both the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving departments in Gascoyne and Huon.
“The local environment was significantly different to those typically experienced in Australian waters.
“This included minimal underwater visibility, deep mud and varying weather.
“Additionally there was high shipping traffic density and foreign seabed conditions with numerous underwater hazards,” said LCDR Brickacek.
Both units quickly adapted and overcame challenges with Gascoyne locating and identifying the first mine of the exercise and Huon identifying the first mine by clearance divers. Success for the Australian Minehunters continued, with both units clearing designated search boxes within allocated time to a clearance rate of 85%.
“This Exercise demonstrated how all nations have worked hard and strived to understand each other’s capabilities and limitations in a new and unfamiliar environment,” said LCDR Brickacek.
At the conclusion of the exercise, Republic of Korea Navy, United States Navy and RAN units formed up in company for photographs in the waters cleared by the MNMIWEX that very week.
Republic of Korea Ship Wonsan took the lead with a further eight Mine Warfare vessels and two aircraft forming to create the largest formation and display of MCM capability in the history of the exercise.