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May 8 2020

SNMCMG1 take part in the Baltic exercise Open Spirit 2020

IRBE STRAIGHT, Latvia - Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) continues its Baltic Sea deployment, taking part in the Latvia-led exercise “Open Spirit 2020” that runs 4-14 May 2020.

The exercise is carried out annually and the Baltic countries Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia take turns hosting it. This year the Latvian Navy has the lead, with the aim of Historical Ordnance Disposal (HOD) in the Baltic Sea. The HOD operations are bringing together ten ships from five nations (Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands and Norway), gathering almost 500 crewmembers.

In case of a conflict or war, it is highly likely that a counterpart might use naval mines to their benefit
 “The Baltic Sea is of high strategic importance to NATO and its partner nations. SNMCMG1 come back year after year to enhance our situational awareness and gain beneficial knowledge about the operations and the current situation in the Baltic Sea. I am glad that the Latvian Navy has taken mitigating measures to allow this exercise go on as planned, even despite the challenging Covid-19 situation”, says Henning Knudsen-Hauge, Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One.
Welcoming formation during Open Spirit 2020. The exercise gathers 10 ships from five nations (Latvia, Estonia, Germany, Netherlands and Norway). In the forefront HNoMS Otra and HNLMS Willemstad, followed by several Latvian, Estonian and German vessels on 4 May 2020, near the Latvian coast.

The Baltic Sea was the scene for heavy fighting during the two World Wars and saw air bombardments, naval gunfire support, minelaying and submarine warfare. As a result of this, many unexploded ordnances from these fights still remain on the seabed. SNMCMG1 is here to help clear these areas and enhance situational awareness in the Baltic Sea region.

“In case of a conflict or war, it is highly likely that a counterpart might use naval mines to their benefit. Therefore, we need to know our own backyard. By clearing these areas now, and mapping the current situation, we make it easier to spot changes or new mines, if any conflict arises,” said the Commander.

SNMCMG1 is currently under the Norwegian command, consisting of the German Flagship FGS Donau, and mine countermeasure vessels HNoMS Otra, FGS Fulda, and HNLMS Willemstad. In addition, the Group has FGS Datteln, FGS Weilheim and FGS Grömitz in their task unit during the exercise.

Story by Public Affairs Officer aboard Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures One

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