BY MARK LOGICO – PEARL HARBOR – Two San Diego-based Avenger-class mine countermeasure ships arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 exercise, from June 28 to Aug. 1.
USS Devastator (MCM 6) and USS Pioneer (MCM 9) conducted a 10 to 12 nautical square mile minesweeping exercises off the coast of Hawaii.
“It’s great to show this side of the Navy especially with the foreign services that are here to see our mine sweeping capability,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Gilbertson, the
commanding officer of Devastator. “It’s been a great success for these two ships to get out here.”
During the exercise, each ship designated a mine threat area and laid out a surface area into grids. Each ship was assigned a grid to sweep and clear for mines.
Pioneer located and performed a mechanical sweep of a moored mine, cutting the mine’s anchoring cables and subsequently neutralizing the target. Devastator, on the other hand, was successful in identifying several contacts on the sea floor.
“It was a little difficult, to be honest,” said Mineman 1st Class Alberto Torres. “Even though the water is pretty clear out here, it took a little bit to find a couple of them. It’s a little surprising because usually with water like this, we would be able to find them rather quickly.”
Devastator’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Wayne Liebold said that so far, Devastator has successfully identified 15 to 20 simulated mine shapes around the waters of Hawaii.
“Mine hunting is very slow,” said Liebold. “Some people say that anti-submarine warfare is slow, but they have never been on a mine warfare ship before.”
Liebold explained that during an underwater warfare operation, a ship would cruise at three to four knots. During a mine warfare operation, a mine countermeasure ship would move at only one to two knots.
“Really the difficult thing that people never really account for is when you throw something over the side of the boat, for example a used refrigerator, it looks a lot like a mine,” said Liebold.
Liebold said in situations like that, the crew would deploy a mine neutralization vehicle, an unmanned mini-submarine equipped with mine-hunting sonar and two television cameras. The vehicle carries two packages: a cable cutter for moored mines, and a droppable charge for bottom mines.
While in San Diego, Liebold said that the crew is happy to be part of RIMPAC 2010.
“A typical Mineman has been to two or three ports,” said Liebold. “So when the crew came to Hawaii, about 70 percent of them said that this was their first port visit. For them, it was a great chance to see the rest of the Navy. For a Mineman, a mine countermeasure ship is the only class of ship that they embarked on.”
The RIMPAC 2010 exercise brought together units and personnel from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.
RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, and takes place in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. The exercise is themed “Combined Agility, Synergy and Support,” and marks the 22nd exercise in the series that originated in 1971.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Mark Logico is Commander for the Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs. He authored this report.