The upcoming IMCMEX 13 mine countermeasure (MCM) exercise due to take place in regional waters, including the Strait of Hormuz and into the Sea of Oman, was not aimed at countering any supposed threat by nearby countries, according to Vice Admiral John W Miller, Commander of the US Navy 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain.
More than 30 warships of various classes, from state-of-the-art unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), small riverine patrol craft, to the two 16,000 tonne UK and US warships acting as motherships during the exercise, will begin several days of practical exercises in the coming days. A total of 41 nations, including GCC states, and over 6,500 military personnel will participate in the exercises.
Addressing international media at the US Navy base in Manama, Vice Admiral Miller said that this year’s exercise, the biggest of its kind ever held in the region, was aimed only at improving worldwide capacity in MCM activities.
“This is building on the previous exercise we held in September 2012. This is all about mines and the affect they can have on global shipping and our ability to engage nations in the region is critically important to our success,” he said.
“Mines are indiscriminate. It is a defensive exercise and not directed at any one nation or entity. The more nations that participate the more effective the exercise is, he added.
Commodore Simon Ancona, UK Maritime Component Commander and Deputy Commander of Combined Maritime Forces, confirmed that some parts of the exercise would see vessels operating through the Strait of Hormuz, off the shores of Oman’s Musandam peninsula. The increase in threat to shipping from non-state actors and pirates also highlighted the¬† need to protect crucial waterways, he added.
“Thirty per cent of sea-borne oil passes through (the Strait of Hormusz). It is the life blood if you head east to the emerging nations, and of course, a great deal of it heads west. Any blockade would have an immediate impact on world trade.
“Recent events, such as the increase in non-state threats such as those that hit the USS Cole and the MV Star (in the Strait of Hormuz) in 2010, as well as the piracy of the Somali coast, just shows how vulnerable ships can be.”
IMCMEX 13 is hosted by the US Navy 5th Fleet in Bahrain and scheduled to be held in three phases: an introductory symposium on MCM capabilities, followed by several days of manoeuvres in regional waters, before closing with a series of lectures and presentations on lessons learned.
Newly introduced from the last exercise of its kind, held in September 2012, multinational forces will practice maritime and installation security tactics and convoy management, as well as locating and destroying dummy mines at sea. The exercise is expected to end on May 30.