NATO — Proud Manta 2012 gets underway

Nisi­da, Naples 14 Feb­ru­ary 2012: Dur­ing the night between the 13 and 14 Feb­ru­ary, five NATO sub­marines slipped their moor­ings and dis­ap­peared into the win­ter waters off Sici­ly. At the same time 12 sur­face ves­sels steamed out to the exer­cise area to begin a com­plex game of cat and mouse which will last until 24 Feb­ru­ary. Proud Man­ta 12, NATO’s largest annu­al anti-sub­ma­rine exer­cise, is under­way.

Augus­ta, Italy, 13 Feb­ru­ary 2012: Span­ish Sub­ma­rine GALERNA opens her hatch­es to vis­it­ing mem­bers of the media. Many of the ques­tions cen­tered on the lifestyle and the sac­ri­fices made by those mem­bers of Allied navies who vol­un­teer to serve in sub­marines. Pho­to: Cour­tesy Ital­ian Navy
Source: NATO
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“This year we have a very large con­tri­bu­tion to this exer­cise by Allied nations,” stat­ed Vice Admi­ral Veri, Com­man­der Mar­itime Com­mand Naples (MC Naples), dur­ing a media day held 13 Feb­ru­ary. “Sur­face and sub-sur­face ves­sels, heli­copters and planes are com­ing togeth­er in an extreme­ly com­plex and pro­gres­sive­ly dif­fi­cult sce­nario.” Admi­ral Veri also point­ed out that Proud Man­ta 12 fore­sees the switch­ing of roles from hunter to hunt­ed for all those par­tic­i­pat­ing with peri­ods of ‘free-play’ in which ships, planes and sub­marines will use all their stealth, expe­ri­ence and equip­ment to hunt and neu­tral­ize each oth­er. He also took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to point out the con­tin­ued impor­tance of the role of the sub­ma­rine and the need for NATO to con­tin­ue to train for full inter­op­er­abil­i­ty in all aspects of sub­ma­rine war­fare. He also stressed the estab­lished and ver­i­fied impor­tance of sub­marines in sur­veil­lance and Spe­cial Forces operations. 

This year’s event sees 15 heli­copters and fixed-wing airt­craft join­ing in the pro­ceed­ings to include, for the first time, Ital­ian Eurofight­ers and Tor­na­does pos­ing a fast-attack air threat. 

Rear Admi­ral James Fog­go III, Com­man­der Sub­marines, Allied Naval Forces South, respond­ing to a journalist’s ques­tion on the impor­tance of Proud Man­ta 12, put great empha­sis on the train­ing in inter­op­er­abil­i­ty offered by the exer­cise. He point­ed out that many of the per­son­nel and assets exer­cis­ing were equal­ly like­ly to find them­selves oper­at­ing side-by-side in NATO-led oper­a­tions where they could, for exam­ple, find them­selves com­bat­ing pira­cy or ter­ror­ism. He also remind­ed those present of the impor­tant mar­itime oper­a­tions that NATO had car­ried out in Mediter­ranean waters as part of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor in 2011. 

A por­tion of the Proud Man­ta 12 sur­face fleet is made up of the ships of Stand­ing NATO Mar­itime Group 1 (SNMG1) cur­rent­ly under the con­trol of MC Naples. Asked what role his ships would have in the exer­cise Com­modore Ben Bekker­ing (COMSNMG1) told jour­nal­ists that, oth­er than offer­ing strong com­pe­ti­tion to the sub­marines, his Group is an Imme­di­ate Reac­tion Force and that he must be able to car­ry out the tasks that the Exer­cise par­tic­i­pants are being trained to do imme­di­ate­ly upon receiv­ing orders from NATO. This year’s Proud Man­ta also includes a grow­ing role for the NATO Under­wa­ter Research Cen­tre (NURC) from La Spezia, Italy. Sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cians aboard the NATO Research Ves­sel Alliance are this year sail­ing in the very midst of the exer­cise car­ry­ing out exper­i­ments on detec­tion and track­ing using Autonomous Under­wa­ter Vehi­cles, test­ing soft­ware, and using NATO-devel­oped ‘glid­ers’ to bet­ter under­stand the pres­ence and behav­iour of marine fauna. 

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