By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet
This was the fifth iteration in the series of MCM exercises between the four partner nations held to enhance mine hunting and communications interoperability.
“This exercise served to refine our procedures as a multi-national MCM task force,” said Royal Navy Capt. Don Crosbie, deputy commander of Task Force (TF) 52, which is comprised of U.S., UK and Australian staff members. “We were excited to be able to integrate next generation technology with current capabilities in order to enhance our overall readiness.”
Participating forces engaged in multiple simulated scenarios, conducting mine hunting and clearance, maritime security, force protection and dive operations training.
AT 21 also included the integration of unmanned underwater systems alongside traditional MCM capabilities, such as mine hunting ships and aircraft.
“AT 21 reinforced the need for interoperability, flexibility and adaptability between our coalition partners, especially as we adopt and employ new technology like unmanned systems and artificial intelligence to our evolving inventory of MCM capabilities,” said Capt. Oscar Rojas, commander of TF 52, who led the planning and execution of the exercise.
Participating coalition forces included more than 700 personnel, seven mine countermeasures ships, two patrol boats, three expeditionary MCM companies, two helicopters and additional supporting staff from the four participating navies, with the Royal Navy’s landing ship dock RFA Cardigan Bay (L 3009) serving as exercise flag ship throughout.
“We remain committed to increasing our understanding of our partners’ tactics, techniques and procedures, which enhances our collective readiness as we work together to safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce throughout this region,” said Rojas.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.