International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 2013, sponsored by U.S. Central Command and the Fifth Fleet, got underway last week in the Persian Gulf. The largest exercise of its kind, IMCMEX involves representatives from 41 nations. Thirty-five ships, 18 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and more than 100 explosive ordinance disposal divers take an active part in the multi-day exercise. Among the ships involved are the Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USSPonce – the first of what is supposed to be a new class of vessels to support U.S. maritime and amphibious operations – and the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious assault vessel RFA Cardigan Bay. A new feature of IMCMEX 2013 will be the introduction of shipping escort and visit, board, search and seizure operations.
International naval forces have become a central feature of the security environment in the region over the past decade. Three multinational task forces provide continuous presence and security for the region’s most important sea lanes of commerce under the overall aegis of Combined Maritime Forces based in Bahrain. Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 is responsible for maritime security and counter-terrorism operations. Twenty-seven nations have participated including Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. CTF 151 focuses in counter-piracy and patrols the waters from Oman to Aden and the entrance to the Red Sea. It currently consists of 10 nations: France, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. CTF 152, a major player in IMCMEX 2013, is responsible for security in the Persian Gulf with a particular emphasis on mine countermeasures. U.S. forces assigned to this CTF include Avenger-class MCM ships, MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters and underwater demolition specialists. Additional participating countries have included Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom.
IMCMEX 2013 serves both political and security functions. It puts Iran on notice that the world will not tolerate any attempt to close the Persian Gulf or otherwise interfere with the free movement of goods and people. Equally important, it provides a basis for a number of nations with mine countermeasures capabilities to hone their skills in a cooperative environment. The ability to keep the Persian Gulf free of mines is an important deterrent to aggression in the region. In June 2012, during a period of heightened tensions with Iran, extra U.S. MCM ships had to be sent to the Persian Gulf from their home port of San Diego.
Maritime security operations, counter-terrorism patrols and mine countermeasures are three areas where many navies can contribute. By shouldering part of the burden for patrolling and monitoring the sea lanes, these countries not only make a positive contribution to regional and global security but reduce the demand for U.S. naval forces, allowing these assets to be deployed where they are most needed.
Moreover, mine countermeasures is one area where the U.S. Navy currently lacks sufficient capability to meet all potential demands. In the future this is one area to which the new Littoral Combat Ship with its mine countermeasures mission modules is expected to contribute. But until then, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, this also is an area where friends and allies can make an important contribution to regional and even global security.
Find Archived Articles: