Two of NATO’s Immediate Reaction Forces meet at sea

Mediter­ranean Sea. With only a few orders, the Ital­ian mine hunter ITS Alghero gen­tly leads the Nether­lands frigate HNLMS De Ruyter and the Cana­di­an Frigate HMCS Char­lot­te­town through a path that she cleared of mines short­ly before.

Cour­tesy pho­to by SNMG1 SPAO
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For­tu­nate­ly, this time the mine­field is sim­u­lat­ed and it serves as a means to bring the unique capa­bil­i­ties of both the Stand­ing NATO Mar­itime Group 1 (SNMG1) and the Stand­ing NATO Mine Coun­ter­mea­sure Group 2 (SNMCMG2) togeth­er. But only half a year ago such a lead through was done for real, when NATO’s mine coun­ter­mea­sures ves­sels (MCMV’s)worked in the approach­es to Libya.

NATO oper­ates four multi­na­tion­al task groups at imme­di­ate readi­ness. Two of those are cen­tered around frigates, two around MCMV’s. “Yet the rel­e­vance and util­i­ty of these groups are the same”, explains Com­man­der Alex Ser­ra­no, chief of staff of SNMG1. “Today’s inter-con­nect­ed, glob­al econ­o­my depends strong­ly on a free flow of goods over the sea lanes of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and an assured access to ports. Pira­cy, pro­lif­er­a­tion of sub­marines and the low cost and easy access to mines are just a few exam­ples to clar­i­fy that we should not take the free flow and assured access for grant­ed. Both SNMG1 and SNMCMG2 pro­vide NATO with ide­al tools to react quick­ly when a risk trans­forms into an actu­al threat.”

With both groups on patrol in the west­ern Mediter­ranean Sea under the long­stand­ing NATO Oper­a­tion Active Endeav­our, an oppor­tu­ni­ty for inter­ac­tion was seen and seized by both multi­na­tion­al staffs. At short notice a series of exer­cis­es was designed that reflect­ed oper­a­tional real­ism where both groups would oper­ate togeth­er.

Allied Com­mand Oper­a­tions