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R A N Exercise DUGONG ~ Combined Mine Warfare Activity

Dive team members from Australian Clearance Diving Team One prepare to conduct a mine countermeasure during Exercise DUGONG at Eden, NSW [ADoD: Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol]

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has laid sea mines for the first time in nearly 50 years during Exercise DUGONG off New South Wales.

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News Release, Canberra, 05 April 2024: The Royal Australian Navy has laid sea mines for the first time in nearly 50 years during Exercise DUGONG.

The mine warfare and clearance diving activity, from March 4-22, was designed to test a combined force from Australia, New Zealand and the US against a realistic mine threat. Prior to the exercise, inert mines were laid in the approaches to Eden, one of the largest fishing ports in New South Wales.

A Petty Officer, Able Seaman and Leading Seaman recover the Sea Fox expendable mine neutralisation system at Eden, NSW [ADoD: Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol]

After a week of integration and training, the tactical phase began with mine countermeasure and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations aimed at clearing or reducing the threat. Teams from Maritime Deployable Robotic and Autonomous Systems Experimentation Unit, Maritime Geospatial Warfare Unit HMNZS Matatua, and members from US Navy Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7 on board ADV Guidance launched autonomous underwater vehicles to identify mines by sonar and video. Minehunter coastal HMA Ships Diamantina and Gascoyne also conducted clearance activities with their organic sonar, mine disposal vehicles and dive teams. Australian Clearance Diving Teams One and Four, along with partner forces, including Matataua and EOD Mobile Unit 5 conducted mine clearance and improvised explosive device operations from ashore.

Able Seamen of Australian Clearance Diving Team Four conduct a wharf search during Exercise DUGONG [ADoD: Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol]

Commanding Officer Clearance Diving Team One Lieutenant Commander Mike Hutchesson said working together with other navies was an exciting opportunity. “I’m very proud of our efforts down here. It’s no small task to deploy and stretch our ability to deploy from Sydney both by sea and by land in this capacity,” he said.

“It’s also an opportunity to examine our interchangeability, mixing together EOD techs, divers and autonomous underwater vehicle operators to get after the mine countermeasure fight.”

Australian Clearance Diving Team Four members and a US Navy member monitor a Talon bomb disposal robot during an improvised explosive device disposal scenario as part of Exercise DUGONG [ADoD: Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol]

To add a realistic edge to training, live sensor readings from the mines were fed to operators ashore, who could tell if divers had successfully neutralised or detonated the mine. It was the largest contingent ever deployed on Guidance, with more than 80 personnel supporting the exercise, including headquarters staff from the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Task Group.

The new mining capability is part of the SEA2000 programme to provide rapidly deployable and technologically sophisticated smart sea mines launched from submarines, ships and aircraft. VIPs were shown through Guidance during a capability demonstration day after the exercise.

A Chief Petty Officer of Australian Clearance Diving Team Four conducts an improvised explosive device disposal scenario during Exercise DUGONG [ADoD: Leading Seaman Sittichai Sakonpoonpol]

Exercise Director Captain Scott Craig said DUGONG tested integration of old and emerging capabilities as Navy transitions to new equipment. “It went really well. This is a great international activity that demonstrates our abilities across those three nations,” he said.

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