On November 10 through 13 Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) with a Lithuanian Navy officer in charge and Lithuanian Navy LNS Skalvis (M53) will be in Lithuania's territorial waters on a Historical Ordnance Disposal Operation (HODOPS). LNS Žemaitis (P11) will sail in an exercise with SNMCMG1 according to a pre-agreed schedule. A Lithuanian Air Force helicopter will be kept on high readiness at Nemirseta search and rescue post to ensure safety of the diving team. The operation is carried out in close coordination with the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
HODOPS are conducted to reduce the risks to sea navigation, fishing activities, and other economic activities in the Baltic Sea. During the operation ships will be scouting for sea mines and other unexploded ordnance of World War I and World War II, and the post-war period. Areas of the operations are positioned in the territorial waters of Lithuania on the basis of historical sources from the national Lithuanian and German-coordinated international Baltic explosive ordnance databases on minelaying activities in the Baltic Sea during both World Wars. Such operations have been conducted in Lithuania annually since 1977.
SNMCMG1 currently comprises the Lithuanian Navy ship, flagship LNS Jotvingis (N42) and five mine countermeasures vessels: ENS Admiral Cowan (M313) (Estonia), BNS Crocus (M917) (Belgium), FGS Sulzbach-Rosenberg (M1062) (Germany), LVNS Imanta (M-04) (Latvia), HNLMS Schiedam (M860) (the Netherlands). The international staff of LNS Jotvingis (N42) is manned by Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Lithuanians form the major part of the staff in the second semester of this year.
From June 18 to December 31 SNMCMG1 is led by a Lithuanian Commander Cmdr. Audrius Venckūnas and flagship, LNS Jotvingis (N42), command and supply ship, and is manned by a significantly Lithuanian staff. In this time slot SNMCMG1 is on an intense training and operation in the North and Baltic Seas according to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) annual plan.
Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One is an international maritime unit in direct subordination of Commander NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM). It is a multinationally formed rapid response mine countermeasures unit ensuring to NATO a standing mine warfare capability deployable during peacetime, in crisis or armed conflict.
The group operates in Northern European waters: carries our mine clearance operations, takes part in international NATO training and exercises at sea with partner nations. It can be deployed to respond to crisis, or used to demonstrate Alliance presence in the region and solidarity by paying port visits to other NATO and partner countries.
SNMCMG1 is a part of the maritime component of the NATO Response Force. If the force is activated, the ships are ready to depart for the area of operation to ensure a quick and effective execution of NATO tasks on no notice.
Ships for SNMCMG1 are assigned by coastal NATO allies, it is commanded by a representative of one of the countries on a rotational basis , every six months.
Article by: Lt (Navy) Antanas Brencius, PAO for SNMCMG1 staff
Photos: courtesy of SNMCMG1.