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Mine Countermeasures Critical to Security

BALTIC SEA – Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) continues to excell in exercise BALTOPS. In a nod to the significant role mine countermeasures has in the exercise, Vice Admiral Christopher Grady, commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, visited SNMCMG1 flagship ENS Wambola and group vessel FGS Elbe on June 10 for tours of the ships and to meet with crewmembers.

Approximately 6,000 maritime, ground, and air force personnel are involved in BALTOPS. NATO allies and partners together are focused on maintaining a stable and prosperous Baltic Sea region. BALTOPS is a visible demonstration of NATO’s commitment to promote peace and security in the region by exercising forces that can rapidly respond in a time of crisis. Participating nations will demonstrate air defence, maritime interdiction, anti-subsurface warfare, and amphibious operations in a joint environment to ensure regional security. 

In BALTOPS, SNMCMG1 is part of a mine countermeasures task unit consisting of six minehunters, one command and support ship and the unit is led by the commander of SNMCMG1. In addition to SNMCMG1 flagship ENS Wambola and minehunters BNS Primula and HMS Shoreham, the task unit includes three Swedish minehunters: HSwMS Vinga, Ven and Kullen, and German minehunter FGS Datteln. The task unit is supported by the German replenishment oiler FGS Elbe.

The main duties for the task unit during BALTOPS are to search for and neutralize mines or other explosive ordnance in order to keep the sea lines of communications open and to preserve the freedom of navigation. As part of the exercise, training mines are placed by both aircraft and ships.

At this point the combat enhancement training (CET) and force integration training (FIT) portion of the exercise has ended following the tactical phase of the exercise. During the CET/FIT phase, units conducted scripted training events to improve interoperability. This included gunnery, air defence, seamanship and replenishment exercises. The exercise culminates with a tactical phase in which units have more flexibility. The scripted and tactical phase of the exercise are designed to ensure each participant receives the maximum training value from this exercise.

Exercises, such as BALTOPS, improve ally and partner interoperability and their capacity to conduct the full spectrum of military operations. Because of this, the NATO alliance is significantly more capable, postured, and ready to deter aggression.

SNMCMG1 consists of flagship ENS Wambola and two mine countermeasures vessels: HMS Shoreham and BNS Primula. The group is a part of the enhanced high readiness NATO Reaction Force which provides a crucial element to NATO’s capabilities at sea. When not activated by NATO, SNMCMG1 takes part in different multinational exercises and trains with NATO members and partners.

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