Royal, UAE Navy prepare for world’s biggest mine warfare exercise

Two Royal Navy minehunters, HMS Middleton and Bangor, left their base in Bahrain to join their United Arab Emirates counterparts, Al Hasbah and Al Murjan in Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s main port, where they conducted mine countermeasures exercises.

Both navies will be taking part in the world’s biggest test of mine warfare forces, International Mine Countermeasures Exercise, later this year, when warships, divers, underwater vehicles and anti-mine helicopters converge on the region to see how they can collectively respond to the threat of underwater explosive devices.

The UK stations four minehunters in Bahrain 24/7: two suited to finding mines in shallow waters (Middleton and Chiddingfold), and two designed for deeper seas (Bangor and Penzance).

The UAE operate a couple of German-built minehunters; one, the Al Hasbah, hosted the British sailors in port, while the other, Al Murjan, joined the two RN ships for a short combined exercise.

The three ships carried out various manoeuvres in formation before drill mines were laid and the hunt was on.

Having located a suspected mine with their sonar systems, the British ships launch the small Seafox system to close in on the target; it feeds live TV footage to the operations room, allowing the mine warfare experts to identify and decide how to dispose of the device if it turns out to be a bomb, torpedo or mine.

They can either send the ship’s mine clearance divers down – or use an explosive charge on Seafox to neutralise the device.

Lieutenant Commander Tom Weaver, Bangor’s Commanding Officer, said both he and his counterpart in charge of Middleton, Lt Cdr ‘Milly’ Ingham, had “thoroughly enjoyed working side-by-side with Al Murjan and Al Hasbah.

Weaver said: “We look forward to training with them again during the international mine exercise – and in the meantime if we see them out on patrol, they might find us manoeuvring close enough for a cheery wave.”

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