Story by LT Andrew Thompson on 07/31/2018NAVAL BASE POINT LOMA - Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) personnel are conducting underwater mine countermeasure (MCM) operations with a mobile diving center staged at Naval Base Point Loma in support of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise 2018 in the Southern California (SOCAL) area of operations.
The JMSDF Task Element of seven explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians and three staff officers is comprised of JMSDF EOD Team (EODT) members homeported at various locations around Japan including Kure, Maizuru, Ominato, and Yokosuka bases. The technicians were selected by JMSDF Mine Warfare Force Headquarters to participate in RIMPAC in order to work with partner nations, build capabilities, and to share their experiences with other JMSDF EODT members upon their return home.
During the exercise, JMSDF EODT searches the sea floor for exercise mines using unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) equipped with sonar. After the training mines are located, EOD divers don their wetsuits and descend to the sea floor to visually inspect the mines. Each dive can take from five to thirty minutes. JMSDF EODT managed about five dives per day without issue.
This year's exercise also provided the opportunity for JMSDF personnel to participate with Airborne Mine Counter Measure (AMCM) assets provided by Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM-14). Together, JMSDF, HM-14, and the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) Clearance Diving Team (CDT) completed Pouncer operations, where EOD divers jump from an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter to recover drifting buoyant sea mines, a first for much of the JMSDF EODT members. These combined missions highlight RIMPAC's value to build capability with partner nations in order to develop combined teams capable of working together to adapt to challenging operating environments.
The JMSDF Task Element falls under the exercise's MCM Combined Task Group (CTG 177.2). Additional task units participating within CTG 177.2 are a RNZN CDT, the Royal Canadian Navy's coastal defence vessels HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705) and HMCS Yellowknife (MM 706), the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) UUV Unit, HM-14, and mine countermeasure ship USS Ardent (MCM 12). Together they bring a wide range of mine countermeasure capabilities to locate and neutralize sea mines in support of the operational commander.
CTG 177.2 is part of Combined Task Force (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. CTF 177. CTF 177 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 about 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.