Dummy mines fitted with sensors that react to detection attempts ensured a clearance exercise in Jervis Bay, NSW, was close to reality.

Minehunters HMA Ships Gascoyne, Huon and Yarra were challenged with securing the bay after a simulated force had littered the area with different types of underwater mines and was operating a militia capable of surface strikes using small boats.

More than 150 personnel were involved Exercise Cuttlefish 2020 held earlier this month.

Cuttlefish was under the command of Navy’s Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group (MCDTG), which is a deployable group comprising units specialising in mine warfare, clearance diving, hydrography, meteorology and a patrol force.

The MCDTG operated from a mobile headquarters ashore at HMAS Albatross.

Commander of the MCDTG Commander Richard Brickacek said the certification event tested his staff’s ability to plan for, and sustain, mine-warfare operations in an evolving scenario.

“Mine warfare poses significant potential risk to commercial shipping and safe sea lanes and this exercise has been an effective way to test Navy’s readiness in this area,” he said.

“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.”

Exercise director Captain Pete Bartlett said the exercise tested the MCDTG’s readiness to command and control mine-warfare operations.

“The task group certification is an important activity because it’s at a larger scale than normal and presents a greater challenge for the MCDTG staff who need to prove their ability to manage a battle space in real time,” Captain Bartlett said.

“Conducting mine hunting across three ships using a combination of remotely operated vehicles and diving teams, and exercising force protection, is a robust test for the MCDTG’s command and control.

“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.”