Vice Commander, Naval Mine Anti-Submarine Warfare Command and Commander Task Force 522, Rear Admiral Kenneth Perry, answers your questions about the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX). Militaries from more than 20 nations spanning four continents will come together September 16-27, 2012 to participate in a defensive exercise to preserve freedom of navigation in the international waterways of the Middle East and promote regional stability within the CENTCOM AOR.
Operating together in a series of at-sea maneuvers, international air, sea, and undersea forces will respond to simulated sea-mine attacks in international waters and clear maritime routes to restore freedom of navigation. The cooperation of navies from around the world promises high tactical value for the ships, aircraft, and divers involved; while demonstrating international resolve in defending maritime security against potential threats.
Question: Why has it taken so long for an international exercise on MCM to take place? A certain unnamed country has been threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz for years now, and mines are generally agreed to be the easiest, cheapest, and often most effective way of doing so. One would think that an MCM exercise in the region would have been of foremost importance long before now – certainly, one would expect the NATO Standing MCM groups to have done something in these waters by now in case of a future Alliance action in the area.
Answer: This is not the first time MCM exercises have been conducted. In addition to bilateral MCM exercises in the region and elsewhere, Western Pacific and NATO nations have participated in multiple MCM exercises.
U.S. Central Command conducts multiple exercises in the region, both bilateral and multilateral events; this is one of many engagements conducted alongside regional defense forces. IMCMEX 12 is part of an ongoing, routine theater security cooperation engagement plan, with the intent of improving interoperability, and reassuring regional and partner nations of our commitment to security, stability and prosperity. It is not being conducted in response to any one particular threat or specific situation.
Question: Considering the daytime temperatures of 115 deg. F. is it possible to see a mine from above with FLIR at night?
Answer: Since the specific heat capacity (amount of heat required to change a substance’s temperature by a given amount) of water is more than six times of steel or iron, any temperature differential between a large body of water and the mine would quickly dissipate after the heat source was removed (the Sun). The mine would therefore be indistinguishable from the water via thermal imagery. Great Question!
Answer: Mines are indiscriminate; they pose a threat to all maritime traffic, regardless of nationality or purpose. Mines and waterborne improvised explosive devices are not only a threat to warships, but a threat to commerce and the world economy. All nations have a stake in keeping sea lanes open for maritime traffic. It is for this reason that we are coming together to conduct IMCMEX 12.
Question: How would the mines be laid? Aircraft, small surface craft?
Answer: Historically several methods were used to lay mines. Today, various ships, aircraft and submarines are designed with mine laying capability. A range of other craft might physically be capable of putting mines in the water and could potentially be used for that purpose.
Question: What types of expanded assets does (ASFB-15) Ponce provide compared to what LPD’s did during Earnest Will?
Answer: AFSBs provide an enhanced capability for commanders to utilize while performing maritime security operations. Ponce will support mine countermeasure and coastal patrol ships, as well as aircraft operations. The ship will also have the capability to provide flexible support for embarked detachments of personnel, as required by CENTCOM and U.S. 5th Fleet. Ponce’s primary mission is to support mine countermeasures (MCM) operations. Ponce is also capable of providing repair services to other deployed units, including electrical repair, diesel engine repair, metalwork, communication repair, air conditioning and refrigeration repair, hydraulics repair, pump and piping repair and other machinery repairs. Additionally, Ponce also has the capability to embark small riverine craft often used by special operations forces.