HMS Chiddingfold Takes Part in IMX22 in the Persian Gulf

Mine warfare experts and divers on HMS Chiddingfold were given one of their most challenging workouts during the largest naval exercise in the Middle East.

similar vessels from four nations participating in the huge International Maritime Exercise 2022 – involving 30 nations peppered around the Gulf, Red Sea and
Indian Ocean.

Chiddingfold found herself working alongside like-minded ships from Japan, Saudi Arabia and the US Navy (with whom she shares a jetty at home in Bahrain).

Although much of the emphasis of the exercise was autonomous systems, there was still a major role for more traditional forms of minehunting.

Chiddingfold’s mine warfare and diving departments were occupied 24/7 for the duration of the exercise – made all the more demanding by the fact that half the crew were awake at any one time.

It’s also shamal season in the Gulf which brought inclement weather and rough seas. Once they had passed, mine countermeasure operations began in earnest.

After mine warfare specialists marked contacts detected by her sonar for interrogation, Chiddingfold’s divers plunged to depths between 25 and 60 metres to recover drill mines using lifting bags – large inflatables – which carry the load to the surface for recovery.

“The highlight of the exercise for me was exchanging a drill mine for freshly-baked cookies between us and the Americans”, said Chid’s Able Seaman Diver Simon Andrews after returning one dummy device to the USS Devastator, a US minehunter which, like Chiddingfold, is based in Bahrain.

To sustain operations for the exercise’s duration, Chid ‘rafted up’ (berthed) with Lyme Bay to off-load recovered practice mines and replenish fuel and spent ammunition.

The last act of the exercise was to sail into Bahrain through a ‘swept channel’ – minehunters leading a column of merchant vessels and other warships through a previously-cleared narrow stretch of ocean, an essential skill required to maintain freedom of navigation when a mine threat is present.

“IMX22 was a fantastic opportunity to develop our ability to work with international allies, particularly the Japanese Maritime Defence Force, whom we worked closely with during this exercise,” said Lieutenant Commander Simon Reeves, Chiddingfold’s Commanding Officer.

He leads Crew 3 which, with Crew 1, takes it in turns to operate the ship in the theatre for four months at a time.

The exercise was the last major act of Crew 3’s third and final deployment to the Gulf. “It has been a challenging period that has developed my professional skills, helping me to further my career,” said Able Seaman (Mine Warfare) Jack Sheeran.

After a short period of leave, they will take charge of one of Chiddingfold’s sister ships, based in Portsmouth.

IMX22 was a fantastic op

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