The frigate Leopold I took part in the international exercise “MjØlner 2022” off the Norwegian coast earlier this month. The focus was on firing with many different weapon systems and the internal training of the crew in the event of fire, technical breakdowns or medical problems. About 156 people were on board: from baker to security officer, from technician to air controller.
The exercise MjØlner, literally ‘the Hammer of the Norse god Thor’, took place in the Far North near the Norse range Andoya Space Defense and always takes place on an even year. This year, Danish, Dutch, German and Norwegian naval vessels were also present at the exercise.
These different countries simultaneously held launch exercises in a tactical scenario that approached reality as closely as possible. Leopold I was part of the fleet operating as a task group . During the fictional scenario, there was mainly air threat and threat from enemy ships. Many different weapon systems were reviewed, such as the NATO Seasparrow missiles, the cannon and the goalkeeper (an automatic defense weapon). To top it all off was the first, the firing of the Harpoon Block 2 missile, and the first collaboration with Belgian spotters who gave target indications for firing from an island.
During the exercise, the rhythm of life on board was completely reversed. Everything had to be perfect, both at the technical and personnel level.
“It’s a young crew, so they always have to be ready to master the full picture. Everything has to run non-stop, just like in reality. They know all the procedures but after a while you get tired. Yet you always have to keep your focus,” said Commander Colonval, who heads the ship.
The challenging scenarios and conditions require thorough preparation for everyone on board. “It was a tough week of preparation for the crew. I really pushed the ship to a high level, higher than required, to make sure everything runs smoothly. And that is now bearing fruit,” says Colonval.
Expect the unexpected
There is also a feeling of supreme concentration in the command center. This is where the electronic warfare takes place: image building, the sensors, position of the ship… In the dark room everything is prepared for the launch of the various weapon systems.
Different from other exercises at sea, the ship’s crew was largely unaware of exactly what was going to happen. “If everything is known in advance, it becomes ‘a list’ where almost nothing can go wrong. The unexpected is closely related to effective warfare, where you also don’t know what the enemy is going to do or what is coming your way,” says Robby Clerinx of the Maritime Warfare Center in Den Helder.
After a challenging week on the Norwegian range, the curtain fell on a successful training period near the Arctic circle on 13 May. The Leopold will soon be preparing for her next mission, but first the Vlootparade in Antwerp will follow on 18 May for the 75th anniversary of the Navy.