June 6, 2020 (Google Translation) – The “Fulda” mine hunting boat returned to the home port of Kiel on Friday, June 5, 2020, after a five-month NATO mission. The approximately 40-strong crew under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Mario Evaluations (32) left Kiel on January 8, 2020, after completing a demanding national and international training program. In mid-January the “Fulda” joined the association in the Mediterranean.
In the past few months, the boat was first under the Permanent Mine Defense Association of the Alliance in the Mediterranean and Black Sea (SNMCMG 2, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2) and then the Association in the North and Baltic Seas (SNMCMG 1). The allies permanently occupy these maritime groups with ships and boats. For the German Navy, the 3rd Mine Search Squadron provides consistently certified crews and mine defense boats for these groups at sea, they are among the NATO Response Force’s intervention forces, train all aspects of mine warfare and are constantly on duty with anti-mine vehicles and command ships.
As a result of the effects of the COVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, ports in the operational area of the boat were closed from then on or the supply of replacement and replacement parts from the operational supply of the German Navy was made considerably more difficult due to entry requirements. For this reason, the Ministry of Defense ordered the boat into near-home waters at the end of April, for which it left the Mediterranean on May 3 and switched from SNMCMG 2 to SNMCMG 1. Since then, the crew has been under the command of the frigate captain Henning Knudsen-Hauge, who leads the SNMCMG 1 from the German tender “Donau”. When the soldiers were received by their families, they had no opportunity to go ashore for around 85 days.
The “Fulda” mine hunting boat has been under the German naval command again since it arrived. The “Grömitz” mine hunting boat will be subordinate to the NATO Naval Headquarters Allied Maritime Command in Northwood (Great Britain) for the coming months and is now ready to be phased out. The boat will take part in the Baltic Sea maneuver BALTOPS in the next few weeks under the leadership of the SNMCMG 1 commander.
NATO maintains four permanent maritime operations units, which are manned by ships from the member states and, together with air and land forces and special forces, form the NATO intervention forces NATO RESPONSE FORCE, which was established in 2002.
The units in these associations have completed a training program lasting several months and are at a high level of equipment and training. They can be relocated quickly according to NATO and national decisions and are available for crisis management operations as well as for collective defense measures. They are under the supreme command of the NATO commander in Europe (Supreme Allied Commander Europe, SACEUR). The NATO RESPONSE FORCE was extended by a decision of the member states in 2014 to include a VERY HIGH READINESS JOINT TASK FORCE known as the “spearhead”, which also includes the maritime intervention groups.
The formation of a NATO RESPONSE FORCE also serves to provide joint training and qualification, which is why the associations regularly participate in maneuvers under NATO leadership or at the invitation of individual member states. The SNMCMG1 operates all year round in the North and Baltic Seas as well as in the Atlantic, the SNMCMG 2 predominantly in the Mediterranean and adjacent sea areas. The groups are tasked with being ready for action at sea and training all aspects of mine warfare. They demonstrate the determination and cohesion of the alliance and deepen cooperation with partner countries through port visits and exchange programs.
The boat with the hull number M1058 is a mine hunting boat of the Frankenthal class. These miners are searching for objects with sonar systems under water and can identify and destroy them with remote-controlled drones. Where technology reaches its limits, hunters also use mine divers – for example in shallow water, in harbors, or where there are sea mines near pipelines or underwater cables. To protect against the responsiveness of mines, the boats are made of non-magnetic steel and actively suppress the magnetic fields generated by their own electronic systems. They can also operate extremely quietly in minefields. The boats can lay sea mines themselves to block waterways, protect their own waters or prevent an opponent from using sea areas.