Sailors from minehunter HMS Chiddingfold have faced one of their most challenging workouts to date, joining the huge International Maritime Exercise 2022.
The drills took place over a vast area covering the Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean and involved some 30 nations, with an array of warships.
Chiddingfold found herself working alongside similar vessels from Japan, Saudi Arabia and the US Navy.
Although much of the emphasis of the exercise was autonomous systems, there was still a major role for more traditional forms of minehunting.
Chiddingfold’s mine warfare and diving departments were occupied 24/7 for the duration of the drill – made all the more demanding by the fact that half the crew were awake at any one time.
After mine warfare specialists marked contacts detected by her sonar for checks, Chiddingfold’s divers plunged to depths between 25 and 60 metres to recover drill mines using lifting bags – large inflatables – which carry the load to the surface for recovery.
‘The highlight of the exercise for me was exchanging a drill mine for freshly-baked cookies between us and the Americans’, said Able Seaman Diver Simon Andrews after returning one dummy device to the USS Devastator, a US minehunter which, like Chiddingfold, is based in Bahrain.
‘IMX22 was a fantastic opportunity to develop our ability to work with international allies, particularly the Japanese Maritime Defence Force, whom we worked closely with during this exercise,’ said Lieutenant Commander Simon Reeves, Chiddingfold’s captain.
He leads Crew 3 which, with Crew 1, takes it in turns to operate the ship in the theatre for four months at a time.
The exercise was the last major act of Crew 3’s third and final deployment to the Gulf.
‘It has been a challenging period that has developed my professional skills, helping me to further my career,’ said Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Jack Sheeran.
After a short period of leave, they will take charge of one of Chiddingfold’s sister ships, based in Portsmouth.