March 12, 2021 (Google Translation) – Mine hunting in the Baltic Sea – around 150 marines from Kiel will face this task over the next few weeks. On Monday, March 15, 2021 at 9:30 am, the anti-mine boats “Fulda”, “Bad Rappenau” and “Grömitz” will leave their home port. Accompanied by the “Elbe” tender from the support squadron as flagship and command ship.
The NATO partners Belgium, Denmark, Latvia and Lithuania join the German marines for the two-week mine defense maneuver “Baltic Mine Countermeasures Squadron Exercise”. The aim of the transnational exercise is to improve cooperation between the naval forces in the Baltic Sea region. The exercise was launched four years ago by the 3rd Minesweeping Squadron of the German Navy.
The contingent will jointly practice nautical maneuvers, combat duty, sea and air target shooting in the western Baltic Sea and used in Danish waters for underwater mine defense in order to search for contaminated sites from former wars and conflicts – live ammunition, torpedoes, mines and bombs.
The deputy commander of the 3rd minesweeping squadron, frigate captain Inka von Puttkamer (38), sees this as an opportunity to strengthen cooperation in the Baltic Sea region: “We are responsible for making the Baltic Sea safer. I am therefore all the more pleased that we are too To meet pandemic conditions in 2021 by setting up an association together with our partners. International missions and exercises are our ‘daily bread’ – and of enormous importance. We do not miss any chance to strengthen mutual understanding, to improve and to allow our skills sharpen.” Frigate captain von Puttkamer will lead the formation at sea.
Due to the corona pandemic, the soldiers on board the ships and boats are subject to strict requirements. All crews are tested for a COVID-19 infection before leaving the port, are subject to constant mask and distance requirements, remain in the crew cohort during the exercise and make organizational arrangements for special areas such as serving food in the galley or staying in Operating rooms. The boats are expected to return to their home port at the end of March 2021.
Since 2016, the 3rd Mine Search Squadron has been inviting other miners from the Baltic Sea Navy friends to the joint exercise “Baltic Mine Countermeasures Squadron Exercise” in the spring. Thus, an association made up of German anti-mine boats and support vehicles is growing up with an international component.
This international exercise is the result of the “Baltic Commanders Conference”, a meeting of naval commanders from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Germany. The inspector of the German Navy launched the format in 2015. It serves to network the commanders at the squadron level.
The commander of the 3rd Mine Search Squadron from Kiel, Frigate Captain Terje Schmitt-Eliassen (44), emphasizes the cohesion and solidarity as a guarantee for security in the Baltic Sea: “This multinational cooperation is the essence of the squadron. We have always practiced international and we are internationally and with partners in action. This is firmly anchored in the DNA of all marines. In times when the Baltic Sea plays an important role for the European security situation, this well-maintained network is the pragmatic key to cooperation. We commanders speak on the basis of Agreement of our naval commanders directly with our counterparts – without a long journey through instances, commands or ministries.Whether it is about the spontaneous arrival of our boats in foreign ports or the planning of exercises like this: If you know each other, it just works – and it works easier. ”
The 3rd minesweeping squadron consists of ten anti-mine boats, on which the navy’s capabilities for anti-sea mine defense are bundled. These are targeted mine hunting, mine diving, large-scale mine clearing and mine laying. The squadron provides permanent and reliable boats for national and international maneuvers, missions and task forces. Usually two boats are involved in the two large standing NATO mine countermeasures groups in the Mediterranean and Northeast Atlantic, the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Groups 1 and 2.
The boats have several options for finding and removing dangers underwater. Either they control cable-guided underwater drones that can identify and destroy mines. They use mine divers who can render explosive devices harmless even in hard-to-reach places such as in ports or on beaches. Or they steer the seal-class surface drones that simulate the engine noises and magnetic fields of ships and detonate mines. Every single one of these abilities or, depending on the situation, a clever combination of them, aims to create safe passage ways for other ships and boats.