May 13, 2021 (Google Translation) – The frigate Leopold I is moored in the morning of Thursday 13 May in the naval base of Zeebrugge. The ship and its 160-strong crew will only stay in port for a few days. They will then join a fleet of NATO ships to participate in the Formidable Shield 21 exercise on the Atlantic Ocean in the coming weeks . The Minister of Defense was waiting for them on the quay.
After three months of operational deployment, including escorting the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle and the EMASOH ( European Maritime Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz ) mission in the Persian Gulf, this stopover of at most a few days in Belgium is welcome. Strict measures are taken to prevent the crew, who have been living in a bubble since her departure, from catching Covid-19 and endangering the upcoming exercise.
The main reason for the logistical stopover is to get the Alouette III helicopter off the ship. This was the last deployment of this aircraft on board a frigate. The aircraft will then board the A960 Godetia, which is also in its latest deployment as the flagship of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG 1). For the frigate’s next mission, an NH90 helicopter will replace the venerable Alouette III.
A stock of spare parts is brought on board at the logistics stop in Zeebrugge. This allows the ship’s technical staff to remedy certain urgent defects. The ship also uses the stop to refuel and, above all, to provide the crew with fresh food.
For the crew, the logistical stopover provides an opportunity to stretch their legs at the naval base. On that occasion, the Secretary of Defense was able to meet the men and women of the crew.
After the stopover, the frigate will join other NATO units to participate in the exercise At Sea Demonstration 21 . This Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum (MTMD-F) exercise is coordinated with NATO ‘s Naval Striking and Support Forces 21 Formidable Shield exercise . During that unified exercise (ASD / FS21), participants work on operational and technical objectives to improve their operational cooperation. In a collaborative training environment, they fire with real ammunition for air and missile defense, using NATO’s command and control hierarchy.
Ten MTMD-F countries participate with ships, aircraft, vehicles and embarked personnel for the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Task Group : Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States . Building on the results of previous forum events, ASD / FS21 will increase operational cooperation and the collective capacity of the Allies. This is done in an exercise with complex scenarios, focusing on future challenges in the field of air defense and ballistic missile defense.