The 30-nation International mine countermeasures exercises ends; Kingfish UUV enters test phase

September 27, 2012 - via Bahrain News Agency

Manama, Sept. 27 (BNA) -- The International Mine Countermeasure Exercise concluded today with a resounding success, said Vice Admiral John W Miller, Commander U S Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces.

He added that 30 nations participated in this endeavour – nations from both inside and outside the region. He told the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) that the theater of operations was Central Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden near Djibouti. Rear Admiral Kenneth M Perry, Vice Commander, Naval Mine and Anti-submarine Warfare Command, who also addressed the conference said a new unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), named King fisher, was also introduced.

Addressing a press conference at the naval base in Jufair, the vice admiral said “We were able to accomplish more than a week of safe operations in three separate areas and also had the opportunity to test some new technologies, understand different perspectives, tactics, techniques and procedures. So it was a great example of international capability that we can leverage to clear mines laid in the sea. I could not be more pleased with the outcome of the exercise. I think this is a benchmark, and with this we look forward to building on international cooperation. “

He said that the exercise focused on clearing the mines. The international communities’ expertise at clearing the mines laid in the sea was demonstrated, so as to ensure the security and free flow of maritime trade and commerce into and out of the Arabia Gulf. “How to get the mines out of the water so that maritime activity can take place safely was the key focus,” said Admiral Miller. This exercise would not have been possible without the support of His Majesty the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The partnership between the United States navy and the Royal Bahrain navy date back over 60 years, he added.

Responding to a question on the recent naval exercises carried out by Iran and the leadership of that country saying that it would strike any country that planned attacks on it, he said, “During the course of the exercise there were over 30 countries operating in international waters in a responsible and legal way. Iran also operates in the same waters and both the US and Iranian navy interact with each other on a daily basis on international waters, because we both are in international water space as we ought to be.

Commenting on the number of vessels that participated in the exercise, the Rear Admiral who was in charge of the exercise said, “ We had about 3000 sailors and personnel participating directly in there on the various ships and staffs. We had 10 mine sweepers from several countries, some which form part of the Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain and some from outside. There were over 20 ships. The remaining 10 ships were the larger support ships and command ships.”

The Rear Admiral responding to a question on the capacity of intruders to lay mines said that the US Fifth Fleet and the navies that participated routinely assess the mine laying capabilities around the world and develop and train their forces to be ready and prepared to address such threats.

“We develop advanced capabilities including mine sweeping ships, helicopters, special purpose divers and now modern advanced unmanned underwater vehicles, all designed to hunt for, detect and neutralize kill mines. We maintain a robust force and have demonstrated that force in this exercise,” he added.

Asked about the new technologies used in mine countermeasure activity, the Read Admiral said, “We had a range of platforms, and technologies that we demonstrated in this exercise. Some of them were traditional platforms including mine sweepers and mine hunters from various nations. “We also demonstrated the ability to employ more modern unmanned systems, including autonomous underwater vehicles deployed from the ships to hunt for and detect mines and some advanced capabilities.”

Later, elaborating on the capabilities, he told the BNA that an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is one of the new capabilities. Its programmed for mine detection and reports the finding to other mine hunting platforms. We used training shapes and devices to train the forces and demonstrate the ability to find the mines and hunt mines.”

He said that this was the first time an underwater drone was used.” The unmanned underwater vehicles, this is the first time they were being used in an international exercise. Others have been used in previous exercises within the US and with other navies. There is strong enthusiasm and support for such exercises in the future. “

Asked to distinguish the UUV, he said, “ It’s a larger, longer endurance, higher capability sonar vehicle. We believe it shows promise for real mine-hunting and detection operations. It will be in operation when it is proved that is effective in mine hunting. We are doing that proof as we speak.” He added that the Kingfish – would be exclusively deployed permanently underwater and used by a various US navy fleets.

In addition to the exercise, said Miller, the navy has enduring partnerships throughout the region . This was a rather large exercise because of the number of countries that participated. “We exercise on a regular basis with all the nations that come under the fifth fleet command. We continue to provide support to the Afghanistan effort, 30 per cent of the fixed wing tactical air missions that have flown in Afghanistan everyday come off navy ships,” he added.

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