MST Uraga Class
On 11 May 2007, the Japanese Maritime SDF's Bungo, an Uraga Class Minesweeper Tender, set sail from the naval base at Yokosuka, near Tokyo, for Okinawa, under orders from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to assist in a "preliminary" survey of the ocean floor of Oura Bay, where his government plans to construct a state-of-the-art base for American marines. Under cover of darkness, divers from the Bungo carried out their seabed survey and the ship then withdrew. The operation took only a few days, and neither the media nor the local and national groups opposing the base caught sight of the Bungo or its divers.
Mine Countermeasures Division (MCMDIV) 11, USS Guardian (MCM 5), USS Patriot (MCM 7) and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) Five Det. 51 participated in Mine Warefare-Explosive Ordnance Disposal exercise (MINEX-EODEX) '04 off the coast of Shimonoseki, Japan, 14-25 February 2004. One of several annual Japanese fleet exercises, MINEX-EODEX is the only exercise where the forward-deployed U.S. mine countermeasure units routinely engage Japanese naval assets.
During the exercise, participating units from both nations practiced procedures required to conduct offensive and defensive mine warfare. Guardian and Patriot conducted round-the-clock mine hunting to clear a simulated minefield in the Inland Sea where Japanese airplanes and ships had laid training mines. Using specialized mine hunting sonar and unmanned underwater vehicles, the two ships located, classified, and simulated the destruction of four common types of mines.
Both ships also streamed minesweeping equipment that cut cables on moored mines and generated sound signals and magnetic fields that detonate bottom mines. EODMU Five Det. 51, working with the Japanese Mine Force Headquarters EOD Team, received possible mine contact information provided by Patriot, Guardian, and the Japanese vessel JDS Bungo (MST 464). The combined EOD team used the information to practice diving on, identifying, defusing and removing mines from the water.
In addition to exercising technical skills, MINEX-EODEX '04 was also designed to give both navies an opportunity to practice basic seamanship, navigation, and foster interoperability. Guardian and Patriot practiced rigging to receive fuel underway from Bungo, demonstrating the ability of Japanese units to provide logistical support to U.S. ships. Conversely, a guidance exercise involving Guardian leading Bungo through the simulated minefield showed the operational assistance the American ships can provide.
The most important aspect of the exercise, however, was the personal interaction it generated. The staff of MCMDIV 11 embarked Bungo, and an officer exchange placed one officer from each U.S. ship on a Japanese minesweeper and a Japanese officer on each of the U.S. ships.
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