Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group-1 holds drills with Estonia

Photo Courtesy: NATO MARCOM

Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 wrapped up a 9-day joint training programme with the Estonian forces on 26 May 2020, NATO Maritime Command announced.

The exercise gathered 7 ships from 4 nations as well as several smaller surface crafts, airplanes and helicopters in the Baltic Sea. The first part of the training focused on naval mine countermeasures, in the form of Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations (HODOPS) off the coast of Estonia. In total, the group together with the Estonian mine countermeasure vessels covered an area of 44 square nautical miles and identified 180 mine-like objects. Of them, 3 historical mines were neutralized.

“The Baltic Sea was scene for heavily mine-laying during the world wars, but some areas more densely than others. We covered quite a large area, and investigated a lot of mine-like objects, resulting in three identified and neutralized mines. This low number of mines found is actually a positive result, as it proves low historic mine density in the area. Together with our Estonian allies, we made the Baltic Sea a safer place, and enhanced NATO’s overall situational awareness in the area”, said Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1, Henning Knudsen-Hauge.

No coordination meetings or pre-sail conferences were carried out due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. The exercise planners both in the Estonian Navy and on board the SNMCMG1 never met each other, but once again proved that using unified procedures across NATO is beneficial and makes us stronger together even if we’re physically apart.

“One thing is having a lot of different assets which are good alone, but getting the assets to operate and function together needs training. During the days in Estonia we enhanced our interoperability, and proved that NATO operations are almost “plug and play” when we work on same procedures and frequencies”, said Commander SNMCMG1, Henning Knudsen-Hauge.

The training exercise was carried out between 18- 26 May after a short logistical stop in Tallinn 15-18 May.

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SNMCMG-2 and Estonian assets together

SNMCMG1 currently consists of the German flagship and replenishment vessel Donau, the Norwegian minesweeper Otra, the German minehunter Fulda and the British minehunter Ramsey. In addition, the Estonian mine countermeasure vessels Wambola, Admiral Cowan, Ugandi and airborne assets from the Estonian Air Force took part in the joint exercise.

Estonian Chief of Defence, as well as Chief of Navy visited the Group during the exercise.