Ships from Expeditionary Strike Group 7 conducted unprecedented integrated mine-countermeasure training during Noble Vanguard in the Sea of Japan earlier this month.
The Navy’s expeditionary sea base Miguel Keith, mine countermeasures ship Chief, and littoral combat ship Charleston conducted the mine warfare training together — marking the first time they have done so in the 7th Fleet, the Navy said.
“When all of the component parts of the U.S. Navy’s deployable mine warfare team are on the scene and synchronized, the advances in U.S. Navy mine sweeping and hunting are clearly evident,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander of ESG 7, in a news release.
The exercise consisted of a rafting phase with the Miguel Keith — a first for the newly commissioned vessel — to practice resupplying mine countermeasures ships and landing craft utility boats.
“Miguel Keith provides an afloat forward staging base for the Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure Company and deployable mine warfare units to operate,” said Capt. Scott Hattaway, commodore of Mine Countermeasure Squadron 7, in the release.
“Having a mobile base that can support operations near the scene of action greatly increases the available operating time of the squadrons and embarked assets for mine hunting operations,” he said. “Additionally, the rafting capability to resupply, refuel, or passenger transfer was demonstrated using a landing craft utility boat and an Avenger-class MCM as proof of concept for expeditionary logistics. By conducting these operations, an ESB can extend the endurance of smaller vessels or conduct operations in remote areas.”
Another phase of the May 12-21 exercise activated Task Force 77 out of San Diego’s Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center for the first time to conduct exercises focused on mine sweeping procedures and tactics to identify and counteract sea mines, along with airborne mine countermeasures training.
“Activating CTF 77 as part of Noble Vanguard afforded SMWDC battle staff an excellent opportunity to exercise command and control (C2) of live mine-countermeasures forces for the first time in several years,” said Capt. Patrick Thien, deputy director of the Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center, in the release. “Additionally, the ability to provide C2 of forces in 7th Fleet from San Diego demonstrates our ability to respond to any crisis as the global mine warfare commander. Finally, participation in Noble Vanguard gave us another opportunity to sharpen our planning skills, understand new capabilities joining the fleet and continue to improve our warfighting skills in preparation for future exercises.”
Those who joined the ships in the exercise included detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron 14, Mine Assembly Team from Naval Munitions Command Detachment Okinawa, and personnel from Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure Company 11-2.
“Noble Vanguard was not conceived to prove a single system off a single platform,” Engdahl said, “but rather to optimize, analyze and advance all our mine countermeasure assets — LCS, unmanned underwater and aerial vehicles, explosive ordnance disposal divers, a mine countermeasures ship, and airborne mechanical and laser search — expertly commanded by mine warfare specialists onboard the same afloat expeditionary staging base that can resupply and refuel each of these assets ‘in situ.’
“This talented team has just set the standard for the next five years of mine hunting operations.”