Story by LT Andrew Thompson on 08/01/2018NAVAL BASE POINT LOMA, Calif. A six-person team of mine countermeasures (MCM) experts from the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) partnered with the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) coastal defense vessel HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705) to search for training sea mines during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in the Southern California (SOCAL) area of operations.
The RNLN team embarked HMCS Whitehorse to form a highly adaptive and flexible mine hunting task element from July 3 to 27. Working together, the teams were able to simultaneously launch three REMUS 100 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) to scan the ocean floor using state-of-the-art sonar technology, searching for mine-like shapes in support of the larger Combined Task Force (CTF) 177's mine warfare mission during the exercise.
"RIMPAC is a really special training opportunity for us. We get to work with partners from around the world; countries that we often do not work with back in Europe," said RNLN Lieutenant Maurice van Ginneken, the UUV team commander. "We embark ships, operate from land bases, or deploy from whichever platform is available to execute the mission. In this case, we embarked HMCS Whitehorse, which was very suitable for this kind of operation."
The RNLN UUV team concentrated solely on mine hunting, while the HMCS Whitehorse crew provided the infrastructure and security that allowed the UUV operators to maintain their focus. The team carefully planned each UUV mission in full consideration of the maritime security environment.
Once complete, the UUVs were recovered from the water and the sonar imagery was downloaded for analysis. After a full post-mission analysis, the operators generated a list of coordinates for contacts that resemble sea mines. The contacts were then shared with the wider Combined Task Group (CTG) 177.2, one of two MCM Task Groups within CTF 177, for further prosecution by clearance divers from a Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Clearance Diving Team (CDT) or a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team (EODT).
RIMPAC SOCAL's mine warfare training environment allowed the RNLN team to finalize a shift in UUV leadership responsibility from the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) community to the MCM community in their home country. Three members of the six-person team who participated in RIMPAC will go on to operate and grow the UUV mission within the Dutch MCM community.
The combined Dutch-Canadian team contributed reliable mine clearance efforts as part of the CTG 177.2, led by the U.S. Navy's Commander, Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON 3). The MCM elements in CTG 177.2 also included RCN coastal defense vessel HMCS Yellowknife (MM 706), Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron Fourteen (HM-14), and the U.S. MCM ship USS Ardent (MCM 12).
CTF 177, led by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), and the U.S. Navy's Global Mine Warfare Commander. is comprised of 26 units with approximately 1,100 personnel representing the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand. It is conducting mine warfare operations in support of RIMPAC.
Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.