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RAN and US Navy mine hunters put to the test

RAN and US Navy mine hunters put to the test
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. Photo: Leading Seaman Ronnie Baltoft.

The Royal Australian Navy and US Navy have kicked off Exercise Dugong 2021 in Western Australia, to integrate existing and emerging mine warfare systems, technologies and practices.

The Royal Australian Navy and US Navy have kicked off Exercise Dugong 2021 in Western Australia, to integrate existing and emerging mine warfare systems, technologies and practices.

The RAN has partnered with the US Navy’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team Five (EODMU5), mine warfare and maritime geospatial specialists for DG21.

The scenario this year is set in Port of Fremantle, with its Indian Ocean accesses blocked by an adversary’s offensive mining tactics.

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The importance of Navy’s mine warfare capability should not be underestimated, according to DG21 Exercise Director Captain Pete Bartlett.

“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,” CAPT 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, noted that 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," CMDR 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.

“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,” CMDR Kerrisk added.

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.” CMDR Kerrisk said.

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

[Related: Defence opens tender for Hobart Class sustainment]

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