MANAMA, Bahrain, –
At any one time, thousands of commercial and military vessels occupy the tense waters and strategic choke points spanning from the Suez Canal to the Bab-al-Mandeb, through the Strait of Hormuz and into the North Arabian Gulf. For these mariners, what is unseen is often as dangerous as what is seen.
This is why nearly 50 nations have come together as part of International Maritime Exercise 2019 (IMX 19), a major component of which is training in mine countermeasures (MCM).
IMX 19, the sixth iteration in the IMX series, is designed to strengthen relationships, foster interoperability among supporting forces, and enhance theater-wide maritime security operations as well as strengthen maritime infrastructure capabilities under multinational command and control through exercises such as MCM.
IMX’s MCM mission is defensive and collaborative – a force comprised of several nations from the region and around the world, dedicated to finding, identifying and destroying underwater mines. Ships and helicopters conduct large sweeps through the ocean. If an anomaly is found, divers or unmanned vehicles are deployed to find its specific location. The mine is then detonated or dismantled for research.
IMX provides a platform for sailors from around the world to share their best practices and learn from each other in a joint environment.
“Our goal is to establish a working understanding of each other’s capabilities and limitations so we can develop and maintain open lines of communication,” said Chief Petty Officer Richard Kampard, a combat systems operator with the Royal Australian Navy.
The large international presence is what sets IMX apart, in fact making IMX the second largest maritime exercise in the world. The contingent participating in the MCM exercises include personnel and ships from the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Australia, France, Jordan and more.
Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, emphasized the importance of nations coming together to face maritime challenges, including threats to navigation such as underwater mines.
“IMX is an important demonstration of global commitment to freedom of navigation and the free flow of maritime commerce in this region,” said Malloy. “I’m proud that we have participation from nations all over the world.”
Indeed, the success of IMX is in the enduring partnerships created here, which are necessary to maintaining stability and security in a challenging maritime environment, for military and civilian mariners alike. This, Malloy added, is the shared goal of all nations.