Mine hunters put to the test

The Port of Fremantle and its Indian Ocean accesses have been blocked by an adversary’s offensive mining tactics.

CAPTION: Commander Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group, Commander Micheal Kerrisk, delivers the opening address to Australian and American personnel participating in Exercise Dugong 2021. Story by Photo by Lieutenant Jessica Craig. Leading Seaman Ronnie Baltoft.

This is the scenario Exercise Dugong 2021 participants face over the coming weeks.

Exercise Dugong 2021 (DG21) has kicked off in Western Australia and will run until November 5.

Partnering with the United States Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Five (EODMU5), mine warfare and maritime geospatial specialists from across the Royal Australian Navy have come together to integrate existing and emerging mine warfare systems, technologies and practices.

DG21 Exercise Director Captain Pete Bartlett said the importance of Navy’s mine warfare capability should not be underestimated.

“Mine countermeasures continue to remain a critical capability for our nation and the surrounding region, which is reliant on safe and open shipping lanes and ports,” Captain Bartlett said.

“It is imperative we exercise this capability to create regional assurance that our Navy’s mine warfare platforms and practices are able to keep surrounding maritime environments safe.”

HMAS Gascoyne personnel will work with EODMU5, Clearance Diving Teams One and Four, the Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit, Mine Warfare Team 16 and other specialist mine warfare personnel during DG21.

Commander Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Task Group, Commander Michael Kerrisk, said the exercise would be an exciting challenge for all participants.

“I expect throughout the exercise we will see our staunch mine-hunting systems, including Gascoyne itself, continue to develop ways to work in sync with our international partners and exciting incoming technologies,” Commander Kerrisk said.

“It is a space that’s continually developing and one that our current and future workforces are, and will, delve into and lead.”

Emerging mine-hunting technologies primarily focus on automated and artificial intelligence to expedite the process of identifying and neutralising sea mines.

Additionally, the exercise is being executed with added realism through the use of a dedicated training environment and the time-sensitive deployment of teams and assets.

“What is really pivotal in the orchestration of this exercise is that we have been able to deploy our mostly east-based units within a realistic timeframe, despite COVID-19 challenges,” Commander Kerrisk said.

“The exercise itself will use the Decisive Action Training Environment to ensure it remains as realistic as possible in order to fully prepare Navy’s mine warfare teams to protect vessels and people at sea.”





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