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U.S. Navy tests unmanned underwater vehicles in Arctic exercise

By Ed Adamczyk
U.S. Navy tests unmanned underwater vehicles in Arctic exercise
An Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish is launched in a U.S. Navy mine sweeping exercise near Adak Island in the Alaska’s Aleutian chain. Photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Brandon Raile/U.S. Navy

Sept. 13 (UPI) -- An ordnance disposal unit successfully tested its mine countermeasures capabilities in the Arctic Ocean, according to the U.S. Navy.

The 115-person, cold weather exercise Near Adak, Alaska, in early September by Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One employed unmanned underwater vehicles to secure water 10 to 40 feet deep, the Navy said on Thursday.

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Using the Mk 18 Mod 1 Swordfish and Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish UUVs for the first time in cold weather environments, they conducted mine hunting, hydrographic surveys and intelligence preparation of the operational environment that would be done ahead of Navy and Marine Corps forces actually operating in a region.

Also in use was a Seabotix remotely-operated vehicle, previously used to analyze sonar and video beneath the Arctic ice.

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"Our personal protective equipment protects us against chemical, biological and radiological hazards," Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore of the exercise, told reporters earlier this week. "We need to take a harder look at that again and see if it's going to support us in this very cold-weather environment."

The unit relied on expertise gained in two decades of mine-clearing missions in the Middle East, the Navy said on Thursday in a statement.

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"Navy EOD is only EOD force that can clear underwater hazards, making the force a crucial enabler for the Navy and Marine Corps team to be able to maneuver where they want to, when they want to," Cmdr. Brian Reitter, commanding officer of EODMU1, said in a press release.

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The exercises are part of Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise, or AECE 2019, which will involve over 3,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, South Central Alaska and Southern California during September.

Rojas added that the exercise was not a preparation to fight against a particular enemy in the Arctic, although Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned of Russian and Chinese aggression in the Arctic Ocean.

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