Busy NATO Deployment for FS Croix du Sud
From November 7 to December 16, 2022, the Croix du Sud tripartite minehunter (CMT) was integrated into NATO’s Brilliant Shield mission in the Baltic Sea, within the NATO mine warfare group SNMCMG1.
Having crossed the Kiel Canal on 11 November, the Southern Cross began its deployment in the Baltic with Operation HOD – Historical Ordinance Disposal – consisting of the relocation and destruction of historic mines in Estonian waters. The operation took place more particularly in Riga Bay, within a force composed of six ships from four different nations: the Sulzbach Rosenberg (Germany), the Admiral Cowan (Estonia), the Southern Cross ( France), the Makkum and the Schiedam (Netherlands), under the command of an Estonian officer on board the supply ship Mosel (Germany).
Mine-hunting operations made it possible to locate 11 moose mines and 61 toads (support which anchors the float), despite the difficulties linked to the almost zero underwater visibility. The operational capabilities of the CMT and the French expertise in the field of mine warfare were highlighted by the identification of nearly 40% of the mines by the Southern Cross .
The identification of these ammunition makes it possible to locate the mine laying rails of the two previous world conflicts, thus facilitating future searches by the navies of the coastal countries.
Apart from mine hunting, several joint training sessions were carried out: refueling at sea, towing, transfer of mail or group tactical developments, thus demonstrating the high level of interoperability between Allied navies.
From November 23 to December 1, the Southern Cross took part in the combined exercise Freezing Winds, taking place in the Finnish approaches. Organized by Finland, it brought together nearly 5,000 soldiers and sailors and 23 ships from ten different nations, including non-NATO partners (Finland and Sweden).
After a collective training phase with the SNMG1 (NATO multinational naval force), the mine warfare group quickly rolled out its ranges in its area of speciality. The Southern Cross thus carried out nearly 140 hours of mine hunting, with a large number of identifications by divers or by PAP (self-propelled fish), in a particularly difficult environment. Indeed, in the Finnish fjords, narrow channels are intertwined where a multitude of islets and shoals appear, at a time of year when temperatures are freezing and night falls very early. The building spent more than nine days in a row in navigation in confined waters (NAVRES), requiring the crew to maintain a maximum level of attention given the proximity of the dangers.
Minehunting operations have made it possible to locate numerous contacts on the seabed, and to countermine a moored mine float dating from the Second World War.
After a stopover in Oslo, the crew of the Croix du Sud is back at its base port before resuming a training phase in the approaches to Brest at the start of 2023.