The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has completed Exercise Cuttlefish 2020, which provided participating Minehunters HMAS Gascoyne, Huon and Yarra, with realistic mine clearance training.

Commercial shipping and safe sea lanes face a significant potential risk from mine warfare and the recent exercise tested the RAN’s readiness in this area. The Mine hunting vessels were assigned to secure Jervis Bay, NSW as part of the clearance exercise. A simulated opposing force had deployed different types of underwater mines and the exercise also incorporated a militia component that could undertake surface strikes using small boats. Dummy mines fitted with sensors were used to increase the realism of the exercise. 

The mine hunting exercise was conducted with HMAS Gascoyne, Huon and Yarra, using a combination of remotely operated vehicles and diving teams, and exercising force protection.

More than 150 personnel were involved in Ex Cuttlefish, which was held under the command of RAN’s Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group (MCDTG), which operated from a mobile headquarters ashore at HMAS Albatross. The MCDTG is a deployable group comprising units specialising in mine warfare, clearance diving, hydrography, meteorology, and patrolling. The certification event tested the MCDTG’s ability to plan for, and sustain, mine-warfare operations in an evolving scenario, Commander of the MCDTG Commander Richard Brickacek said in an Australian MoD release.

“The minehunters carried out mine counter-measure operations and defended themselves against fast-attack craft armed with heavy and light machine guns, all under the tactical command of the MCDTG. Minehunters often work together and a big part of doing this effectively depends on good communication and command and control to synchronise their individual capabilities, needs and tasks to achieve the mission,” Brickacek said.

The MCDTG’s readiness to command and control mine-warfare operations was tested during Ex Cuttlefish, said Exercise director Captain Pete Bartlett. “Along with the maritime and amphibious task groups, which are responsible for blue-water sea combat and littoral combat respectively, the MCDTG is a significant part of our maritime warfare capability and needs to be rigorously tested through scenarios like the one presented in Exercise Cuttlefish,” Bartlett said.