Brocklesby joins international mine exercise in Gulf

HMS Brocklesby joined American and Saudi sailors for a four-day workout in the Gulf to test their combined seafaring and minehunting skills.

The Bahrain-based warship headed out into the Gulf to link up with the Al-Shaqra of the Royal Saudi Navy ­– a British-built Sandown class minehunter similar to those operated by the UK – and the US Navy’s USS Dextrous for the second combined mine warfare exercise of the year involving the three nations.

The Americans also committed an MH-53E Sea Dragon from their Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 for the combined training.

More than half the length of Brocklesby, the giant helicopter pulls a sled through the ocean – used to sweep for mines mechanically, detonate them magnetically or search for them using a side-scan sonar.

The three ships and helicopter practised not only their ability to find and eradicate practice mines, but also carried out more general training such as sailing in close formation and honing communications and ways of working so that they can operate seamlessly together in a real-world scenario.

The four-day exercise was directed from the Saudis’ Mine Warfare Centre at the King Abdulaziz Naval Base in Jubail and the senior British officer involved in proceedings, Captain Don Crosbie, was delighted with its outcome.

This second round of training allowed us to refine our mine counter-measures procedures as a combined team

Captain Don Crosbie

"This second round of training allowed us to refine our mine counter-measures procedures as a combined team,” said Capt Crosbie, deputy commander of Task Force 52, the Coalition Mine Countermeasures Group operating in the Gulf.

“Building cohesion is the best way to continuously increase our defensive capabilities as a coalition.”

Brocklesby – currently home to Crew 6, nicknamed the Mavericks, from Portsmouth’s 2nd Mine Countermeasures Squadron – is one of four Royal Navy mine warfare ships stationed long-term in the Gulf.

Although her focus is on finding – and neutralising – underwater explosive devices, a lot of her recent activity has been concentrated on broader security at sea in the region.

Operation Tuwaiq is a combined effort involving the navies of the UK, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the USA designed to reassure merchant shipping passing through the Gulf that Coalition navies are on patrol and there to help them – and conveying a similar message to the hundreds of smaller fishing dhows operating in the same waters.