MANAMA, Bahrain (NNS) -- The latest iteration of the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) is about more than mine hunting, said the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East as he met with reporters April 9, to discuss the exercise.
Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, told members of the international media, here to observe IMCMEX, the exercise demonstrates global resolve in maintaining freedom of navigation and the free of flow of maritime commerce.
The exercise includes mine countermeasures, diving operations, small-boat exercises, maritime security operations coordinated with industrial and commercial shipping, unmanned underwater vehicle operations, and port clearance operations.
Donegan noted the region provides an effective training opportunity, as three of the world's major maritime chokepoints are located here: the Suez Canal in Egypt, the Strait of Bal Al Mandeb between Djibouti and Yemen; and the Strait of Hormuz between Oman and Iran.
"Nearly 20 percent of the world's oil transits through the Strait of Hormuz every day," Donegan said. "Imagine the impact on the global economy if suddenly that oil stops flowing because of restricted sea-lanes. This region is clearly important to the whole world. This exercise is a great opportunity for us to build proficiency and test the latest technology available for ensuring the global maritime commons stay open and secure."
Donegan spoke with reporters alongside the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, Royal Navy Commodore William Warrender. Warrender is the officer leading this year's IMCMEX. "The exercise itself allows us to undertake practical training and to test our equipment in an exceedingly realistic environment," Warrender said.
International maritime forces representing more than 30 nations from six continents are taking part in IMCMEX. Donegan praised the efforts of the exercise's participants, noting their contributions strengthen the collective ability to counter threats to freedom of navigation while working with the maritime industry to protect the free flow of commerce anywhere in the world.
"Our partnership with commercial and industry shipping is a unique strength of this exercise. We continue to effectively operate together, and with partner nations, further highlighting the ability to safely escort commercial ships," said Donegan.
IMCMEX will also demonstrate new technologies, such as unmanned underwater vehicles. It also exercises the sealift capabilities of the expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF-2) and the afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15), equipped with the U.S. Navy's only operational laser weapon system.
IMCMEX began April 4 with a symposium in Bahrain on Maritime Infrastructure Protection bringing together governments, militaries and industry to discuss how to best provide the necessary foundation of security that supports unrestricted access to the vital maritime infrastructure that is critical to regional and global economies.
The exercise will continue through April 26.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.