SAN DIEGO (NNS) — Commander Task Force (CTF) 177, led by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and the Navy's Global Mine Warfare Commander, kicked off the Southern California (SOCAL) portion of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) with mine warfare training operations which run through Aug. 2.
CTF 177 is comprised of 26 units with approximately 1,100 personnel representing the United States, Australia, Canada, England, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand. It will conduct advanced mine warfare operations including mine countermeasure operations to support RIMPAC.
The mine warfare training operations are structured into five phases: staging and integration; force integration training; two simultaneous tactical phases; and a debrief and refurbishment period.
"The purpose of these operations is to increase capability and to build relationships with our partners. Trust isn't something you can surge, and it's critical that we maintain and develop these key relationships for the times we really need to rely on one another," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and the Navy's Global Mine Warfare Commander. "The training we will complete will increase capability, evaluate new and existing tactics, foster interoperability, and also provide us the opportunity to complete biennial certification of the U.S. Navy's deployable mine warfare battle staff."
SMWDC's Mine Warfare Battle Staff will complete Mine Warfare Commander biennial certification following Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet's review of training objectives met throughout the exercise. The CTF 177 team will also conduct an assessment of mine countermeasure forces in confined waters and sea lines of communication. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 is also slated to continue operational testing for MH-60S Seahawk Airborne Mine Countermeasure systems - Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) -a first for fleet exercises.
RIMPAC 2018 will also be the first time that U.S. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team West (MSRT-W) participates in RIMPAC SOCAL. Early in the exercise they conducted maritime interdiction operations with Royal Canadian Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technicians.
U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, the Royal Netherlands Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy personnel will participate in the exercise. Commands participating include: Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 3, Mine Countermeasures Division (MCMDIV) 31, MSRT-W, the Australian Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Squadron USS Ardent (MCM 12), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), HMCS Whitehorse (MM 705), HMCS Yellowknife (MM 706), Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21.
Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security of the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.