The combined forces of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) and Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) joined in the Central Mediterranean to test themselves against the challenging exercise scenario of a minefield at sea, 27 July.

Seven NATO warships from four countries, including frigates, destroyers and minehunters, proved their ability to overcome this complex challenge during the exercise.

Exercise role players placed a simulated minefield across a narrow maritime chokepoint – a navigationally constrained passage of water that naturally channels merchant shipping traffic as the shortest route between key destinations. Such a minefield is a formidable obstacle to the passage of ships, especially when combined with the risk of attack from hostile aircraft and fast attack surface vessels. It also represents a realistic scenario faced by warships or merchant vessels.

There is potential for aggressors to close off maritime chokepoints through use of sea mines or coastal forces, hence Allied navies must be ready to react to maintain freedom of navigation through these vital shipping routes.

“Both the world economy and our daily existence are utterly reliant on merchant shipping,” Commander, SNMG2 Royal Navy Commodore Paul Stroude said. “It is vital that we are able to keep these strategic routes open such that merchant vessels are able to pass through them safely.”

During the exercise, minehunters and a command and support ship from SNMCMG2 (Turkish Navy TCG Erdek (M-263), and Italian Navy ships ITS Stromboli (A-5327) and ITS Viareggio (5559) used their specialist equipment and expertise to clear a safe route through the minefield. Following safely in their wake and providing protection from air and surface attack were the SNMG2 flagship HMS Duncan (D37) (United Kingdom), along with TCG Gokceada (F494) (Turkey) and ITS Carabiniere (F593) (Italy), bolstered by destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) (United States). The groups defeated computer-simulated air and missile attacks using a combination of long and short-range and point-defence anti-aircraft systems. Small boats from the task group represented fast attack craft, which the group countered with close-range weapons such as 30mm or .50 calibre machine guns.

“We have demonstrated that these two NATO task groups can operate seamlessly together,” Stroude said, “to form a single, integrated, multinational force in the Mediterranean, capable of overcoming complex threats and real-world challenges at short notice.”

SNMG2 is a multinational integrated task group that projects a constant and visible reminder of the Alliance’s solidarity and cohesion afloat. This continuous maritime capability performs a wide range of tasks, including exercises and real-world operations in periods of crisis and conflict.

SNMCMG2 is a multinational naval task force dedicated to ensuring the safety of maritime navigation by providing a constant and credible MCM capability to the Alliance.

SNMG2 and SNMCMG2 are two of four Standing Naval Forces that operate under NATO Allied Maritime Command, headquartered in Northwood, United Kingdom.