Task Group certification shows cutting edge of mine warfare

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), CPOIS Cameron Martin (photographer)

Topic(s): Exercises, Clearance Diving Teams, Minehunter Coastal (MHC), Mine Countermeasures

Minehunter Coastal vessel HMAS Yarra at anchor in the early morning light in Jervis Bay. (photo: CPOIS Cameron Martin)
Minehunter Coastal vessel HMAS Yarra at anchor in the early morning light in Jervis Bay.

Three warships and more than 150 personnel have completed two weeks of realistic training at sea and ashore under the command and control of Navy’s Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, as part of Exercise CUTTLEFISH 2020.

The exercise was run by the Fleet Force Generation Directorate (FGD) with a Maritime Observer Trainer Team consisting of members of Sea Training Group, Force Generation Directorate, COMMHPFOR, COMTRAIN, and a previous COMMCDTG, providing mentorship and training to the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group (MCDTG) and participating Minehunter Coastal vessels.

The MCDTG is a deployable staff capable of planning and executing Mine Warfare operations using units from the Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Force.

The exercise scenario challenged the participating units to secure Jervis Bay on the south coast of New South Wales from a simulated adversary force who had littered the area with different types of underwater mines and continued to operate a local militia capable of surface strikes with small boats.

Operating from a mobile headquarters at HMAS Albatross approximately 20 kilometres away, the MCDTG maintained command and control of Mine Hunters HMA Ships GascoyneHuon and Yarra.

In order to make the exercise as realistic as possible, dummy mines imitated the shapes and profiles of real-life ordnance with some of them even equipped with electronic sensor packages, enabling them to respond to attempts at detection.

Exercise Director, Captain Pete Bartlett of the FGD said the exercise was all about thoroughly testing the MCDTG’s readiness to command and control mine warfare operations wherever required.

“The Task Group certification is an important activity because it’s at a larger scale than normal and presents a greater challenge for the MCDTG staff who need to prove their ability to manage the battle space in real time,” Captain Bartlett said.

“Conducting mine hunting across three ships using a combination of remotely operated vehicles and diving teams, exercising force protection is a robust test for the MCDTG’s command and control.

“Along with the Maritime and Amphibious Task Groups who are responsible for blue-water sea combat and littoral combat receptively, the MCDTG is a significant part of our maritime warfare capability and needs to be rigorously tested through scenarios as this certification has presented.”

Commander of the MCDTG, Commander Richard Brickacek, said the certification event tested his staff’s ability to plan for, scale and sustain mine warfare operations in an evolving scenario.

“The minehunters carried out mine countermeasure operations and defended themselves against fast attack craft with heavy and light machine guns, all under the tactical command of and reporting back to the MCDTG.

“Minehunters often work together and a big part of doing this effectively depends on good communication and command and control to synchronise their individual capabilities, needs and tasks to achieve the mission.

“Mine warfare poses significant potential risk to commercial shipping and safe sea-lanes and this has been an effective way to test Navy’s readiness in this domain in enabling maritime manoeuvre.”