A small team of mine warfare specialists recently deployed under Operation MANITOU as part of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX 14). The focus of the exercise involved countering sea mines and developing international partnerships.
Commander Max Muller, the Commander Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, led Australia’s commitment during the exercise.
“This is an activity focused on countering sea mines and about maintaining an international capability to respond to a mining threat,” Commander Muller said.
Sponsored by US Naval Forces Central Command, the exercise area encompassed about 2.5 million square miles of water and included the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
Forces involved in IMCMEX 2014 concentrated in the Kingdom of Bahrain from October 20, before deploying across different locations in the Middle East.
The exercise participants undertook Mine Counter Measures, Maritime Security and Maritime Infrastructure Protection operations.
Consisting of over 40 nations, IMCMEX 2014 is considered one of the largest maritime exercises in the world.
"We are pleased to see that more than 40 nations have joined us here to take part in this opportunity to enhance international naval capability to preserve freedom of navigation in international waterways," Vice Admiral John W. Miller, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet said.
"If more than 40 nations are willing to come here and practice mine counter measures, just imagine how effective the global response would be if someone actually put mines in the water."
Since IMCMEX’s inception in 2012, the Royal Australian Navy has provided personnel annually. This year’s commitment is 10 personnel from the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, HMA Ships Waterhen, Gascoyne and Yarra.
During the exercise, Navy personnel were embarked on several coalition ships including USS Dextrous, USS Gladitor, HMS Penzance and HMS Chittingfold.
Staff will also be embarked onboard RFA Cardigan Bay working with Royal Navy Battle Staff personnel.
Mine Warfare specialist, Petty Officer Stuart Sives, was fortunate enough to participate in the exercise onboard British vessel HMS Penzance.
"My involvement in this exercise has been an eye opening experience. The sheer scale of capability and resources on hand in Bahrain has been very impressive," Petty Officer Sives said.
In a year where coalition forces have come together to respond to threats against international security and stability, and to prevent humanitarian disasters, this exercise provides an opportunity to further enhance stability and security in the Middle East region.
IMCMEX 14 has brought together a coalition of international navies where the combined goal in an exercise scenario is to ensure the sea lines of communication are maintained in accordance with the International Law of the Sea.