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The exercise, called Neptune’s Kilt, involved more than 500 Sailors and Airmen from four surface ships, two MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters, and four A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. The training aimed to strengthen interoperability among U.S. and UK forces in mine hunting operations.
The ships included HMS Middleton (M34), HMS Bangor (M109) and RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009) from the UK, as well as guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) from the United States. The 75th Air Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from the U.S. Air Force and Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 from the U.S. Navy participated with fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, respectively.
“This exercise has enabled us to increase our proficiency in mine countermeasures and enhance the integration of our tactics from the air and sea,” said UK Royal Navy Capt. Derek McKnight, deputy commander for U.S. 5th Fleet’s mine countermeasures task force, Task Force 52. “As a combined U.S.-UK task force it is an honor and a pleasure to work closely together.”
The mine countermeasures mission focuses on clearing mines from vital waterways to ensure the free flow of commerce. During the exercise, maritime assets practiced procedures for detecting, classifying and clearing mines as Air Force A-10s and the Navy destroyer conducted unit defense training.
“We effectively conducted tactical communications, mine-clearing exercises and formation sailing,” said Cmdr. Jake Ferrari, Paul Hamilton’s commanding officer. “We remain committed to keeping maritime sea lanes open and ensuring maritime security throughout the region.”
In April, the U.S. and UK naval forces completed a similar training exercise with French partners in the Arabian Gulf called Artemis Trident. Dive teams and explosive ordnance disposal technicians from the three nations embarked mine countermeasures ship USS Devastator (MCM 6) as well as Cardigan Bay to share best practices and tactics.
The U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses approximately 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea, parts of the Indian Ocean and three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, Suez Canal and Strait of Bab al-Mandeb.