We'll call this a wake-up call; again.
A major international naval exercise last month in and around the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, led by the U.S. Navy with more than 30 other nations participating, located fewer than half of the practice mines laid at sea. This outcome of the highly publicized military drills — not publicly known until now — underscores how difficult it may be for the United States and its partners to detect and incapacitate waterborne explosive devices that Iran has threatened to plant if its nuclear facilities come under attack. Out of the 29 simulated mines that were dropped in the water, “I don’t think a great many were found,” retired Navy Capt. Robert O’Donnell, a former mine warfare director for his service, told the NewsHour. “It was probably around half or less.” Navy officials, though, said the drill was constructive and asserted that focusing on the number of mines detected alone would paint an incomplete picture.Perhaps. There is that side of the story, and then this.
“We enjoyed great success,” said Cdr. Jason Salata, the top public affairs officer for the 5th Fleet. “Every platform that was sent to find a shape found a shape. We stand by that.” Salata asserted that “there were no missed mines, each platform that had an opportunity to find the mine did so.” The drill, dubbed International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 or IMCMEX, brought together countries from all over the world at a time when tensions with Iran have been heating up. Tehran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important choke points through which 20 percent of the world’s oil flows.Ummmm .... OK PAO.
Now a consultant, O’Donnell was invited by the Navy to observe the September exercise firsthand as it unfolded. The Navy declined to provide data on how many practice mines were located during the two-week naval drill but did not dispute that less than half were found. However, a spokesman insisted that the figures do not tell the whole story and that the event was “‘not just about finding” the dummy mines. “Numbers alone do not tell the story of IMCMEX’s effectiveness and success,” said Lt. Greg Raelson, a media officer with the 5th fleet, stationed in Bahrain. “We operated ships, helicopters, divers, and unmanned undersea vehicles with accuracy and effectiveness, confirming our ability to respond to maritime mine threats in the undersea environment. Because of this exercise, we were able to enhance partnerships and further hone the international community’s ability to ensure the safe and free flow of navigation.”That is roughly right, methinks. Learning to work together is the key, and we really should do this more often - kind of like BALTOPS, but with worse liberty. If after a few years we're still batting .500, then we should worry a bit.