Royal Navy sharpens minehunting skills in key drill with US Navy and Saudis in the Gulf

MINEHUNTING specialists from the Royal Navy have united with American and Saudi allies for a series of punishing exercises in the Gulf.

Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 5:57 pm

HMS Brocklesby joined forces with the foreign navies as they sharpened their skills in destroying deadly underwater explosives.

The Portsmouth-based warship spent a week drilling in the oppressive summer heat of the Middle East alongside American deep-water minehunters Dextrous and Gladiator and Saudi Sandown-class vessel Al Shaqra.

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Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Brocklesby, rear, pictured with USS Gladiator, of the US Navy, during a drill in the Gulf. Photo: Royal Navy

The operation tested the ships’ abilities to operate as a team and individually to clear explosives from the critical shipping lanes of the Gulf.

Participants were expected to detect, classify and, if required, destroy a series of training mines laid by exercise co-ordinators.

‘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,’ said mine warfare specialist Able Seaman Dan Buttery, aged 22.

Working not far from the coast, the four ships had to contend with a challenging environment, with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees and strong seasonal winds.

HMS Brocklesby follows Saudi minehunter Al Shaqra, front, flanked by two US Avenger-class minehunters

Lieutenant Commander Chris Easterbrook, Brocklesby’s captain, said given the challenging weather conditions, the exercise ‘was more a masterclass than a gentle introduction’.

He added: ‘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 said 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.’

Brocklesbury is stationed at the British naval base in Bahrain. She is part of the Royal Navy’s permanent presence in the region.

The 685-tonne warship is specialised in hunting for mines in shallow waters.

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