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International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX)

International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) is an exercise about mines and the international effort to clear them organized by US Central Command (CENTCOM). The CENTCOM area of responsibility encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, and parts of the Indian Ocean.

It was announced in July 2012, that militaries from more than 20 nations spanning 4 continents would come together between 16 and 27 September 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 area of responsibility. IMCMEX 12 was planned as the first of what was intended to be a recurring partnership event.

US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) and an international contingent of military planners completed the Main Planning Conference for IMCMEX 12 in early July 2012. IMCMEX 12 was expected to be an international symposium and afloat exercise of mine countermeasures, conducted in multiple locations in NAVCENTs area of operations. Exercises such as IMCMEX 12 were intended to enhance cooperation, mutual maritime capabilities and long-term regional stability and interoperability between the US and its international partners while preparing the international community to address threats to freedom of navigation and international commerce.

IMCMEX 12 came at a time of heightened tensions between the US and Iran, primarily over Iran's nuclear program. An Iranian decision close the Strait of Hormuz in response to a military strike against the nuclear infrastructure or continued international economic and diplomatic pressure was a major concern. However, then Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a press conference on 17 July 2012, that "This is not an exercise that's aimed to deliver a message to Iran. This is an exercise that's designed to, within this multinational forum, increase our capabilities and cooperation."

When it began on 16 September 2012, IMCMEX 12 was the largest countermeasure exercise in the Middle East up to that point, with navies from 30 countries spanning 6 continents coming together to participate. Terrorist attacks against the Motor Vessel (M/V) Limburg in 2002 and the M/V M. Star in 2010 had underscored the IMCMEX 12 exercise scenario, which focused on a hypothetical threat from an extremist organization to mine the international strategic waterways of the Middle East, including the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf, although exercise activities will not extend into the Strait of Hormuz.

The wholly defensive exercise consisted of 2 distinct phases. The first was a symposium, where senior leaders from participating countries would exchange ideas and view the latest mine hunting, sweeping, and neutralization technologies provided by a panel of industry representatives and presenters. In the second phase, ships, crews and observers would get underway to train together to prepare for tactical execution. Ships would conduct at-sea maneuvers in 3 separate geographic areas, which would include mine hunting operations; helicopter mine countermeasure operations; international Explosive Ordnance Disposal mine hunting and diving operations, and small boat operations focused toward underwater improvised explosive devices. The exercise would finish with leaders, liaison officers and observers gathering to discuss lessons learned during the phases to further foster interoperability among participants.

Both the USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) participated in IMCMEX 12. The multilateral exercise focused on mine countermeasures (MCM) operations, but also included MCM support activities such as intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance; maritime security operations; visit, board, search, and seizure events; maritime critical infrastructure protection; explosive ordnance disposal; maritime domain awareness and force protection.

The IMCMEX 12 closed as scheduled on 27 September 2012, with US Navy officials from Task Force 522, the lead element for the exercise, saying that they had achieved every objective. Naval forces from over 30 countries demonstrated the ability to operate effectively together and clear mines from vital international sea lanes. They operated ships, helos, divers, and undersea vehicles across over 1000 miles of this region, confirming the ability to respond to maritime mine threats in the tough undersea environment.

Representatives from 41 nations assembled in Bahrain to prepare for International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 13 (IMCMEX 13), scheduled to be conducted from 6 to 30 May 2013, in the Gulf Region. IMCMEX 13 was the largest exercise of its kind in the region and would exercise a wide spectrum of defensive operations designed to protect international commerce and trade; mine countermeasures, maritime security operations, and maritime infrastructure protection. IMCMEX 13 was hosted by US Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/US Fifth Fleet and would be conducted in 3 phases: a 3-day symposium on maritime infrastructure protection, an afloat operations phase, and a re-integration phase where participants would discuss best practices and lessons learned for future exercises.

Participating nations began staging and staff integration on 6 May 2013, for the afloat phase of the exercise, scheduled the following week. Thirty-five ships, 18 Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), and more than 100 explosive ordinance disposal divers would deploy as participants during the exercise events of IMCMEX 13. Similar to the 2012 iteration of the exercise, participants would exercise the afloat staging base concept aboard USS Ponce and British Royal Fleet Auxiliary amphibious assault vessel RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009), and would cover surface mine countermeasures, mine hunting, and airborne mine countermeasures operations, international explosive ordnance disposal training, diving operations, small-boat exercises, unmanned aerial vehicle operations, unmanned underwater vehicle operations and port clearance operations.

New to the 2013 iteration of the exercise, the maritime security operations portion would introduce shipping escort and visit, board, search and seizure operations, which would include representatives from maritime shipping industry who were involved in exercise planning and would play a significant role in shipping escort events. Industry representatives would also lead an oil spill response table-top discussion during the exercise. The maritime infrastructure protection portion of the exercise would focus on protecting maritime points of origin and arrival, such as ports or offshore terminals. This portion of the exercise would include shore and harbor security operations; visit, board, search and seizure teams; and specialized aircraft.

The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX), the world's largest naval exercise, with 44 participating nations from six continents, began with the Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium in Manama, Bahrain, 27 October 2014. The exercise is organized and led by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT)/U.S. 5th Fleet. IMCMEX is an opportunity for more than 6,500 personnel from navies around the world to hone the intricate defensive techniques necessary to search for and dispose of mines, which represent a threat to all nations worldwide.

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Page last modified: 30-10-2014 19:34:07 ZULU