Four Royal Navy (RN) mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) fitted with Thales UK’s minehunting sonars have been taking part in a series of important joint exercises with the US Navy (USN) in the Arabian Gulf, where their detection performance has been described by the RN as ‘world beating’.
The exercises were designed to enable the two navies to further develop minehunting techniques in the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf, a busy and important international maritime environment.
The RN force consisted of 2 Hunt-class MCMVs (HMS Middleton and HMS Chiddingfold) and two Sandown-class vessels (HMS Grimsby and HMS Pembroke). The Hunt-class fleet is fitted with Sonar 2193, the world’s most advanced hullmounted wideband minehunting sonar; the Sandown class operates with Sonar 2093, the most successful variable-depth multi-mode sonar in its field.
The exercise was an opportunity for the Commander (Cdr) UK Mine Counter Measures Force to personally direct a multi-ship, bi-lateral mine countermeasures task force at sea.
The 4 USN Avenger-class ships were USS Ardent, USS Dexterous, USS Gladiator and USS Scout. Cdr David Bence RN, Cdr UK Mine Counter Measures Force, says: “Widely acknowledged as one of the world leaders in MCM, the RN has both the capability and intent to conduct expeditionary MCM operations in support of wider maritime and defence objectives. Utilising world-leading sonar and mine-disposal technology, the RN retains the capability to counter modern sea mines in the most challenging of environmental conditions.”
Speaking of the performance of the sonars during the exercise, he adds: “Already proven in more temperate waters around the UK, Thales’s 2093 and 2193 sonars performed exceptionally well in the challenging environmental conditions of the Arabian Gulf. With capabilities that complement each other, they provided a high probability of detection of sea mines - from shallow to deep water - in highly saline water with high ambient sea temperatures. They are world beaters.”
The 4 RN MCMVs are forward-deployed to the Gulf region for several years at a time. They are maintained locally and crew members are rotated with counterparts in the UK on a regular basis.