Cardigan Bay is awesome, offering me the space and flexibility to host and sustain a multitude of systems in a dynamic environment

Commander Ashley Spencer, Commander UK Mine Counter Measure Force

“As mine warfare experts, we never rest on our laurels,” Cdr Spencer explained. “Expeditions need access from sea to land and that’s our business.”

Leading the way as the exercise got under way were the Americans as unmanned boats of the US Mine Hunting Unit moved through suspected minefields, sparing divers the danger.

And ahead of crewless boats, giant MH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, dragging side-scan sonars behind them, rapidly sweeping areas ahead of the minehunters and elite dive teams move in to clear underwater devices.

Both navies use either Seafox – a remote-controlled submersible – to identify and safely detonate a mine, or they send divers into the water to do the same, placing a small charge which is set off from a safe distance.

But not always.

“Conditions and weather weren’t with us, and the diving and mine recoveries were challenging to say the least, but we’ve been getting the job done,” said Diver David Kerrigan from HMS Ledbury.

His ship – as did the others – used Cardigan Bay to take on extra fuel and supplies, ensuring they can stay out of port and remain in the hunt for extended periods.

“Cardigan Bay is awesome, offering me the space and flexibility to host and sustain a multitude of systems in a dynamic environment,” Cdr Spencer added.

“With new technologies embarked, my staff must piece together the warfare jigsaw of ships, aircraft, boats and unmanned systems to defeat a simulated mining event in the region. We are ready.”

HMS Bangor (M109)

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