The latest UK Mine Warfare Battle Staff have formed ready for a six-month tour of duty aboard RFA Cardigan Bay directing British minehunters, plus a specialist engineering team, divers and at times, foreign dive teams and vessels, say the Royal Navy.
Commander Ashley Spencer said:
“I am filled with confidence because I have a diverse and talented team who are training hard to maximise the collective mine counter-measures operational capability. I confess that I’m occasionally envious of other partner nations’ technical capability, but I also know that sustained expeditionary mine warfare is not easy – the RN remains exemplary.”
According to the release:
“The RN has maintained a permanent mine warfare presence in the Gulf for years, beginning with two ships and no staff, increasing to four vessels, then the addition of a mother ship and finally a permanent battle staff – around 500 people on any given day according to the Royal Navy website.
By the time Commander Ashley Spencer and his staff of 19 personnel (drawn from across the RN and coalition forces which operate in the Gulf) will have the new permanent facilities at HMS Juffair to fall back on.”
Recently, RFA Cardigan Bay, acting as mother ship to all four Royal Navy minehunters in the Middle East, was joined by HMS Bangor and Ledbury for the exercise.
The Omani hosts threw their patrol ships Al Dhafirah, Al Muazzar and Al Bat’nah into the mix according to a Royal Navy release, alongside the French destroyer, two US Coast Guard patrol boats and two fast coastal protection ships for the four-day workout.
The exercise centred on a fictional scenario, taking place in the Gulf of Oman, in particular the waters off the capital of Muscat which had been ‘mined’ and needed to be rendered safe to allow shipping to get in and out.
“I would say the biggest take away is learning the capabilities of our coalition forces,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Lavashti Washington, communications officer on board fast patrol ship USS Hurricane.
“Hopefully I’ll get to participate next year and take what we learned this year and build upon it to get even better.”
The exercise culminated with a simulated air attack on the entire naval force. The Chevalier Paul, as the task group’s air defence ship protected the vessels.
“It is always fantastic to visit Oman, and even more of a thrill to have had the opportunity to exercise with our close partners, the Royal Navy of Oman,” said Lt Cdr David Armstrong, chief-of-staff of the RN mine warfare force in the Gulf.
“With the threat neutralised and the minehunter force having provided safe passage in and out of port, the exercise concluded having proven the ease with which the different nations can operate together.”