The crew of HMS Middleton watch JS Takashima depart

Last month the Royal Navy ship, HMS Middleton, worked closely with the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) during a mine countermeasures exercise in the Gulf.

Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessel (MCMV) HMS Middleton trained with the JMSDF for several weeks.  Operating with Japanese Ships’ Uraga and Takashima, the units took part in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX).

Middleton hosted Rear Admiral Hideki Yuasa, Commander of the Japanese Mine Warfare Force, and Captain Toshihiro Takaiwa, Commander of Mine Sweeper Division 51.  The Japanese were given an overview of the Ship’s capability ranging from force protection to engineering.  Afterwards they were given a tour of the Ship as Middleton headed towards a ‘dummy mine’, laid in the Gulf, to demonstrate her Seafox capabilities.

Middleton’s Commanding Officer (CO), Lt Cdr Maryla Ingham, said: “It has been a real pleasure having Rear Admiral Yuasa and his team onboard today. One of the main aims of IMCMEX 16 is to foster stronger relationships between our international partners and it has been very interesting discussing the Mine Warfare doctrine that the Japanese operate.”

Upon arrival in the mine-hunting practice areas the Japanese took up positions in the Ops Room, and the Sweep deck to watch the Seafox being launched.  After successfully deactivating the mine the two Japanese ships and Middleton took part in Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres with all three ships operated in close proximity driving in different formations.  These manoevres worked flawlessly, proving that the units can operate seamlessly together.

Lt Cdr Ingham added: “It has been very interesting working with the Japanese Ships Uraga and Takashima over the past few weeks. We have made new friends and colleagues among our Japanese counterparts and we look forward to working with them again in the future on MCM Operations.”

The day was rounded off with a visual signalling exercise utilising flags.  The JS Uraga would raise a series of flags which would be copied by the remaining units.  In true Royal Navy fashion this became a competition to raise the signal before the JS Takashima, with the lead changing hands several times.

Able Seaman (Sea) Seabourne said: “It was the first time I have had an audience of 12 people watching me work on the Signal Deck. The Japanese obviously take their flagwork and flashing light seriously and they put us through our paces during the Visual Signalling Exercises. I am the only trained visual signaller onboard and by the end of the exercises, we had the CO’s Steward, two YOs and two of the engineers working furiously to hoist the correct signals with the Japanese guests helping out too.”

Rear Admiral Hideki Yuasa, Commander of the Japanese Warfare Force, receives a brief on Seafox
Visual signalling exercise with the Japanese ships