Brocklesby tests minehunting skills with Gulf allies

HMS Brocklesby joined forces with the American and Saudis to test their combined effectiveness at minehunting in the punishing high-summer heat in the Gulf.

All three friendly navies maintain a substantial mine warfare force in the region.

The Saudis operate three Sandown-class ships built, like their Royal Navy counterparts, at the former Vosper Thornycroft yard in Southampton.

All are designed to hunt mines in deep waters, while Brocklesby specialises in locating explosive devices in the shallows.

And among the USA’s impressive mine warfare forces in the region, Avenger-class ships based next to the Royal Navy’s flotilla at Mina Salman in Bahrain.

They dispatched Dextrous and Gladiator to join Brocklesby and Al Shaqra for a week-long workout which tested the ships’ and navies’ individual and collective abilities.

Participants were expected to detect, classify and, if required, neutralise a series of training mines laid by exercise co-ordinators, share their experiences and follow standard minehunting procedures.

Working not far from the coast, the four ships had to contend with a challenging environment. With temperatures in excess of 40°C and strong seasonal winds known as the shamal (meaning ‘north’ in Arabic).

It can be hard sometimes being this far from home when there’s so much going on around the world, but it’s rewarding to know that we are making a difference to a part of the globe that I knew very little about before I came out here.

Warfare specialist Able Seaman Dan Buttery

Brocklesby’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Chris Easterbrook said given the challenging weather conditions, the exercise “was more a masterclass than a gentle introduction.”

He continued: “For some new joiners, this was their first taste in working with the UK’s partners in the region. And it was a fantastic opportunity for mine hunters from the UK, USA and Saudi Arabia to learn from each other.

“We like to pride ourselves on being at the forefront of mine countermeasures, but there’s always something you can learn from your allies”.

Watching proceedings was the senior Coalition naval officer in the region, Vice Admiral James Malloy, who commands the US Fifth Fleet from Bahrain. He says friendly navies should never let their guard down against the mine threat.

“As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, it is crucial that we focus our combined efforts on addressing threats to freedom of navigation in the region,” he added.

“Training like this emphasises our commitment to the free flow of commerce and the safety of navigation.”