On Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 10 a.m., the mine-hunting boat “Bad Bevensen” left Kiel. For the coming months, the boat will belong to the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1) and will replace the “Homburg”.
Under the command of Corvette Captain Christopher Fenske (37), the 42-man crew will leave for Cuxhaven to join the NATO unit. The first part of the six-month mission will take the “Bad Bevensen” to the Baltic Sea. “Participation in the SNMCMG 1 represents the high point of the training provided to date and enables the crew and the boat to bring in the skills they have developed. Operational and nautical exercises deepen the interaction between the units of the different NATO nations,” explains Corvette Captain Fenske .
After a short break over the turn of the year, the Kiel boat will set off for the Belgian coast. The first international maneuvers and association exercises will begin there at the beginning of February. Subsequently, the “Bad Bevensen” will also take part in so-called HOD operations in the German Bight area. HOD stands for Historic Ordnance Disposal or “Contaminated Sites Removal”, which is carried out regularly in the North and Baltic Seas. This is followed by further association exercises that take the crew up to the north. “In the second part of the association’s participation, the climatic challenge in the European Arctic Ocean is a burden for personnel and material. This has to be mastered,” said the commander.
After this demanding cold test for the boat and crew, they are expected back in Kiel on time for Easter in mid-April. Then hopefully with milder temperatures.
NATO maintains four permanent maritime task forces, which are manned by the member states with ships and boats and, together with air and land forces and special units, form the NATO Response Force (NRF) set up in 2002.
The units in these associations have completed a training program lasting several months and have a high level of equipment and training. According to NATO and national decisions, they can be relocated quickly and are available for operations in the context of crisis management as well as for collective defense measures. They are under the supreme command of the NATO Commander in Europe (Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SACEUR). In 2014, the NATO Response Force was expanded to include a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force known as the “spearhead”, which also includes the maritime task forces.
The convergence to form an NRF also serves for joint training and qualification, which is why the associations regularly take part in maneuvers under NATO leadership or at the invitation of individual member states. The SNMCMG 1 operates year-round mainly in the North and Baltic Seas and adjacent sea areas. The association has the mandate to be ready for action at sea and to train all aspects of mine warfare. They demonstrate the determination and solidarity of the alliance and deepen cooperation with partner countries through port visits and exchange programs.
Maneuvers and training are just one of the tasks of NATO boats. They secure the sea routes through presence and mine defense and are also used for Historic Ordnance Disposal Operations (HOD) or contaminated sites in the North and Baltic Seas. In doing so, they identify or remove sea mines, torpedoes and bombs from the World Wars or the Cold War, which still pose a threat to shipping today.