Royal Navy divers joined NATO allies in Lithuania for a two-week workout dealing with the latest bomb and mine threats.
Delta Diving Unit from the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group (DTXG) based on Horsea Island in Portsmouth, taught and practised identifying – and neutralising – a range of explosive devices in the water and ashore.
Alongside their Canadian, Lithuanian, US, Dutch and Estonian counterparts, the divers were put through their paces in a number of real-world scenarios.
Both on land and at sea, they trained in responding to and disarming improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and conducting explosive ordnance disposal safely.
They also scoured ports for historic ordnance from previous conflicts. The Baltic coastline was the scene of intense fighting in both World Wars, but especially in 1944-45.
Able Seaman (Diver) Alex Bonato worked closely with personnel from Canada and Lithuania during several exercises both in forests and lakes near Klaipeda.
He said: “The way we operate is pretty similar to our NATO allies, but working with them has taught me things and I have been able to share our techniques with them too.
“I have worked alongside them and other allies in a number of scenarios from multiple IEDs hidden along a forest path to floating mines located near ports.
“With current threats around the world, this work is really important. It is about getting used to working with our partners and learning from each other.
“Seeing how they set up devices, it being different to how we would, expands our knowledge and ensures we’re prepared for anything. It has been really useful.”
Delta Diving Unit split their time in Lithuania for Exercise Open Spirit from land-based threats to sub-surface and on the water threats. They used robots and autonomous vessels to aid with their operations including Remus – a torpedo-shaped submersible which can survey and map possible ordnance.
The exercises were conducted as real-to-life as possible with IEDs made using everyday materials – reflecting what the divers could face on operations – then planted at possible places of interest around Klaipeda.
For the divers, Exercise Open Spirit gave them a range of experiences and a chance to showcase their skills.
Leading Diver Paul Rimmer and Petty Officer Alex Talbot enjoyed the range of tasking they faced.
“We have had IED tasking every day but the Lithuanians have also asked us to clear jetties and ports of historical ordnance,” said PO Talbot.
“There has been a nice variety and it’s been good interacting with other nations and seeing how they do things.”
Leading Diver Rimmer added: “It’s been good for the young lads, some of whom are on their first multi-national deployment. It’s really useful for them to see some of the IEDs and mines that have been set up and to get the chance to dive in unfamiliar waters.”
The Diving & Threat Exploitation Group have undergone a recent change to their way of operating and their training in Lithuania will ensure they are prepared for future missions.
Commander Sean Heaton, commanding officer of DTXG, said: “The relevance of what the Royal Navy and our NATO partners have been doing here in Lithuania, could not be clearer.
“Putting Royal Navy Bomb and Mine Disposal Divers from the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group, through these challenging scenarios ensures we are operationally prepared, and able to respond with agility to any threat to UK and NATO interests.”