Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) has completed a four-day Historical Ordnance Disposal Operation (HODOPS) in Lithuania, NATO MARCOM announced. The Group is now on a port visit to Klaipeda, Lithuania until 15 November 2020.
SNMCMG1 together with Lithuanian mine countermeasures vessels covered an area of 17.6 square nautical miles, identified two uncharted shipwrecks and cleared one historical ordnance. All operational activities were executed in close cooperation with the Lithuanian Navy.
On the side-lines of HODOPS, the Group also conducted exercises with several units of Lithuanian naval, air and land forces. Training such as manoeuvring in formation, replenishment at sea, search and rescue (SAR) procedures and actions to support a ship in distress were exercised together with the Lithaunian patrol boat Zemaitis. Gunnery exercises were held in the Lithuanian exercise range at sea. A SAR helicopter of the Lithuanian Air Force was incorporated into the joint training programme. Additionally, the flagship of the NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One, LNS Jotvingis, practiced communication drills with the Artillery battalion of the Motorized Infantry Brigade ‘Samogitia’ of the Lithuanian Land Forces.
“Starting with Estonian, followed by Latvian and Lithuanian HODOPS, has been a great opportunity to complete continuous mine countermeasures activities on the Eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, waters where the concentration of historical ordnance leftovers is one of the highest in Europe. I would like to highlight interoperability reached with the navies of the Baltic states. Thanks to the unified and well mastered NATO procedures, planning, communication and coordination of the operations was carried out with high standards, despite the fact that our staffs have never met physically,” said Commander of SNMCMG1, Commander Audrius Venckunas (Lithuanian Navy).
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the port visit to Klaipeda between 13-15 November has been siginificantly scaled down. Official events and open ship events will not be held and the visit is mainly designated for crew’s rest and re-supply, before continuing their deployment. Stringent COVID-19 measures are in place to minimize infection risk.
Led by Commander Audrius Venckunas of the Lithuanian Navy, SNMCMG1 consists of the flagship LNS Jotvingis with international staff on board and five mine countermeasures vessels: ENS Admiral Cowan, BNS Crocus, FGS Sulzbach-Rosenberg, LVNS Imanta and HNLMS Schiedam.
SNMCMG1 is one of four standing forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff onboard and the ships of the group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.