Mine warfare team gains major training benefits at RIMPAC

Published on POMW Jonathan Geldof (author), US Navy ENS Lindsay Lewis (photographer)

Location(s): Off the coast of San Diego, California

United States Navy Rear Admiral Bill Merz, Commander RIMPAC Combined Task Force 177, and Royal Australian Navy Commander Max Muller, Commander RIMPAC Task Group 177.1, surrounded by Combined Task Group 177.1 staff onboard the USS Anchorage during the sea phase of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2014 (RIMPAC). Foreground: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle REMUS 100. Background: MH53 (Sea Dragon) helicopter from Helmineron 14 (photo: ENS Lindsay Lewis, USN)
United States Navy Rear Admiral Bill Merz, Commander RIMPAC Combined Task Force 177, and Royal Australian Navy Commander Max Muller, Commander RIMPAC Task Group 177.1, surrounded by Combined Task Group 177.1 staff onboard the USS Anchorage during the sea phase of Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2014 (RIMPAC). Foreground: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle REMUS 100. Background: MH53 (Sea Dragon) helicopter from Helmineron 14

Currently operating off the coast of San Diego for exercise RIMPAC 2014 is the small team of six mine warfare sailors from the Royal Australian Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Element (AUV), normally based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney.

Early in the sea phase of the six week long exercise, the Australian AUV element, along with elements from the Royal Navy, United States Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy, embarked in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Coronado to trial AUV operations from the newest of the United States Navy’s Independence class ships.

The AUV elements conducted multiple missions off the shores of Coronado Island, California, giving the Australian team the chance to collaborate with the other nations and ensuring they took away valuable knowledge and practices of AUV operations.  

The AUV team is currently embarked in Landing Platform Dock (LPD) USS Anchorage, working under the command of Commander Task Group 177.1, Royal Australian Navy Commander Max Muller for the conduct of the RIMPAC tactical phase.

From this platform, the Australian AUV team is operating alongside seven countries, employing diverse range Mine Counter Measures equipment, which includes four dolphins form the Mk 8 Marine Mammal program. This period will offer many more challenges and opportunities to grow and develop knowledge of AUV operations and aspects of mine warfare.   

As part of Task Group 177.1, the Australian AUV team will conduct exploratory mine hunting missions using the latest side scan sonar technology over several minefields as part of the advance forces in support of the RIMPAC amphibious task group.

For some of the junior members of the Australian AUV element, the opportunity to train overseas, on state of the art ships such as LCS and LPD, alongside personnel from seven different countries, has been very well received.

 “I’m new to the team, so I was very fortunate to post in and head straight over to San Diego for the exercise,” said Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Troy O’Hara, who only joined the team earlier this year.

“I’ll be able to learn basically everything I need to know about the operation and programming of the REMUS 100 side scan sonar system before I get back home,” he said. 

The challenges and opportunities offered during RIMPAC 2014 will be very beneficial for this small team, significantly increasing their skills and experience using a system that is hoped to be a major contributor to the future of mine warfare practices in Australia.