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● USS Scout, one of the American Avenger-class mine
countermeasure ships, operating in the Gulf
GAINST the hazy
backdrop of the Gulf
It’s been an intensive stint in the Northern Arabian Gulf for sailors on
● Seafox is lowered into the waters of the Northern Arabian Gulf
with the USNS Catawba in the background
heat, the massive oil
board minehunters HM ships Blyth, Ramsey, Chiddingfold, Atherstone,
tankers loom over the Iraqi oil
RFA Diligence and RN divers on Operation Ardent Remedy. The British
terminal, siphoning away sailors have been joined by American, Iraqi and Kuwaiti counterparts
the currency of commerce, during their painstaking mission to declare the seas safe of any
transport and production.
dangerous relics of past conflicts, reports Helen Craven.
It is the safe arrival of these
tankers to which the Naval ships of
the Coalition have been dedicating Hunts and two Sandowns, and searched these waters, spotting cut jobs that would have taken 20
themselves in recent weeks. two Avenger-class MCMVs from and identifying contacts as small days down to just four.
The ships of the US and Royal
the American fleet, USS Scout as 18-inch metal boxes that are The four-man team – CPO(D)
Navy have been joined by craft
and USS Gladiator, supported by scattered across the seabed. ‘Bomber’ Brown, PO(MW)
and divers from Iraq, Kuwait,
RFA Diligence acting as mother- The British vessels – smaller ‘Fingers’ Dumbleton, LD Michael
Britain and America – in total 22
ship for the minehunters and the with a shallower draft – tended Jacobs and CPO ‘Snipper’ Gelder
Coalition vessels and some 640
USNS Catawba for the divers. to focus on the waters of less – have been moving among the
It is now five years since the than ten metres in depth, where various vessels that have made up
The waters of the Northern
last seeding of mines into the blue the Hunts’ 2193 Sonar and the the coalition task force.
Arabian Gulf are scattered with
waters of the Northern Arabian remote underwater vehicle Remus “This is our fifth platform,” said
the detritus of the conflicts of
Gulf, and this passage of time has particularly came into their own. CPO Brown, “as a four-man team,
recent decades, its waters scarred
brought the title historic ordnance Cdr Hunkin said: “The Khawr
we’ve kept a low footprint, moving
on the mariner’s chart by the thick
disposal. Abd Allah (KAA) waterway is
from platform to platform.
purple line that denotes Mine
It may seem surprising that this for us a particularly challenging
“We’ve spotted 1,282 contacts
Danger Area.
clearance task has not been done environment. The water itself is
– all non mine. Lots of scrap
But those charts will soon
before, but Cdr Hunkin is frank brackish, so it’s half salt, half
metal, lots of tyres and general
need to be redrawn with the new
about the reasons – “The key point fresh.
designation Former Mined Area.
is up until now we haven’t had the “The charting of this area is
“I’m confident that seabed is as
Their work shows there is
technology to go and tackle this fairly difficult, it is constrained
cleared as it can be.”
nothing to imperil the massive
very shallow water area. navigationally, and also the water
Remus – to give it its full
tankers on their ponderous
“If this clearance job was easy, conditions make it very difficult
title Remote Environmental
route to those all-important oil
it would have been done in the last for our sonar to operate.
Monitoring Underwater System –
platforms, nothing to deter the
17 years since Desert Storm.” “So there were some difficult
has proven itself in the far ranges
commercial companies of the
He also credits the close liaison environmental challenges for us in
of Norwegian cold and West
world heading up to pipe away the
with the Iraqi and Kuwaiti forces taking our ships up there.
African sun – although despite
financial lifeline to the rebuilding
that made the work possible. “The waters are very silt and
its five years of use by the RN, it
of the Iraqi nation.
“That was one of our key sediment-laden, and underwater
has not yet achieved operational
For this is the job that the
concerns. How are we going to there is absolutely nil visibility.
Coalition task force CTF 158.2,
liaise with these guys? How are we “The fact that we’ve done this
Once spotted, it remains the
led by Cdr David Hunkin RN
going to make it work? So we had job quickly doesn’t mean that it
job of the Naval divers – whether
and Cdr Scott Evertson of the US
to come up with protocols. And was easy, just that we’ve worked
British, American, Iraqi or Kuwaiti
Navy, has been dedicating itself
we found them being completely hard.”
– to investigate any suspect contact
since the closing days of March.
open and honest, warm and He added: “This was the first
and decide its nature, often by
At the invitation of the Iraqi
friendly.” time that the 2193 had been used
touch alone in the murk-ridden
and Kuwaiti governments,
Iraqi and Kuwaiti officers and in the Gulf and the first time
painstakingly slowly, in a labour of
ratings worked alongside the British in such shallow and demanding
The divers from the Fleet
detailed concentration, the various
and Americans to make sure that waters as the KAA, and the
Diving Squadron have been based
nations have checked, checked
the operation ran smoothly for all results we got were absolutely
on board the USNS Catawba, an
and checked again the seabeds of
the nations involved. outstanding.
ocean-going tug that has spent
the Mine Danger Areas (MDAs),
Cdr Evertson added: “We made “The central MDA was our
the last 13 years operating out of
searching for the forgotten relics
sure that it wasn’t a case of ‘I’m shallowest, a lot of the water was
Bahrain. Although this expansive
of past conflicts.
diving my own stuff’. between three and six metres and
craft belies the title tug with its
Cdr Hunkin, the British officer
“We’re not four separate entities too shallow for a minehunter, we
at the head of the international
out here, the good thing about it is were using Remus.
equally expansive master, Capt
mine countermeasures force, said:
that we are all working together.” “The information from her
Rodger LaGrone of Military
“At the start of our mission there
“A lot of the divers out here sonar is almost a map of the
Sealift Fleet Support Command.
were 12 mine danger areas for us
have been trained at either our seabed, then divers went out and
Within the Sandown HMS
to visit.”
or the US diving school, so we dived on the contacts.
Ramsey, the ship’s dive team are
In total, that meant 104nm
all speak the same language, so “The equipment performance
impressed with what Remus had
seabed, an area almost the size
to speak, similar protocols too,” was much better than expected,
to offer. PO Garth Spence said:
of the Isle of Wight; 2,640nm
continued Cdr Hunkin. we had no idea how some of the
“For diving in shallow water, it’s
travelled at a speed of one knot;
“It has been challenging, that’s sonars were going to work, but we
ideal. It brings back a latitude and
over 2,000 contacts discovered
for sure. It is a difficult nut to were delighted with the results.”
longitude, and the diver can spot-
dive from a boat on that position.
littering the seabed; all in six short
And the tight schedule? A
team of divers from the
“And for deeper work, it’s a lot
Fleet Diving Squadron
less hassle, and prevents repetitive
and experts from the Fleet
dives for the divers and the issues
“Temperature and the season was T
he two British Hunts,
HMS Atherstone and
Chiddingfold, arrived in the Underwater Unmanned Vehicle
of being bound by compression
a key driver to get up and get it Gulf in April, bringing with them (UUV) unit have been custodians rules.
done now. Temperature does affect their impressive 2193 Sonar and of Remus, a yard-long bundle of “This new Remus really
the endurance of our equipment the agile Seafox remote vehicle. clever technology wrapped up draws together the minewarfare
and our people. It’s the arrival of these and in a cheerful yellow case. and diver branches. The CPO
“That’s also why we had this Remus, the autonomous This autonomous vehicle, (Minewarfare) and PO Diver sit
amount of assets thrown at it to underwater vehicle, that have made once dropped from a seaboat, down together, look at the shapes
generate pace,” said Cdr Hunkin. possible the detailed and intricate contentedly trundles between and sizes that Remus has picked
“And there is no one single search of these challenging waters: transponder buoys at a distance of up, and make decisions together.
solution to any MCM problem, you deep and shallow; crystal clear and up to 2,000 yards, gathering up a “This was a massive success for ● (Above) Remus is lowered into the water;
and a sonar picture of a wreck located in want that variety of techniques.” mud shrouded; solid sand seabed detailed picture of the seabed over us as a team. It was a long hard
the shallow waters of the Mine Danger Area The work has been led by six and glutinous mud fields. which it travels. task, but Remus in my eyes really
along the Khawr Abd Allah waterway minehunting ships: the two British Sonars, cameras and hands have Its sophisticated technology has simplified the diving.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Chris Winter
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