Breaking away from its usual duties in the North and Baltic Sea, NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 has sailed to the Mediterranean Sea where it will be contributing to the Mediterranean operation Sea Guardian.
Led by Norwegian frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup and commander Petter Kammerhuber, the SNMG1 will contribute to maritime situational awareness, counter-terrorism and capacity building in the region.
“Since we are now moving into the Mediterranean with NATO flags on the mast, it is natural that our eight vessels can contribute to the operation Sea Guardian,” said commander Petter Kammerhuber, who will be at the helm of SNMG1 through 2017.
“Some of our tasks include contributing to maritime situational awareness in the Mediterranean, protecting trade routes, deterring maritime terrorism and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” Kammerhuber further said.
In addition to the Sea Guardian operation, SNMG1 will take part in a number of exercises and make several port calls.
The lead ship of the Royal Navy’s offshore patrol vessels, the HMS Forth, started sea trials on Wednesday sailing down River Clyde for the first time.
HMS Forth leads a class of five follow-on River-class vessels which will act as the RN’s eyes and ears around the UK, help to safeguard fishing stocks, reassure and protect Falkland Islanders and deploy to the Mediterranean and Caribbean if necessary.
Designed for a crew of just under 60 (but needing only 38 crew at any one time to go to sea), the ship departed Scotstoun – where she’s spent several months being fitted out – yesterday afternoon with a maximum number of 110 crew aboard. Every bunk aboard is filled.
Contractors from builders BAE, experts from the military’s support organisation DE&S, the RN’s equipment trials specialists MCTA and ship’s company will guide Forth through her ‘contractor sea trials’ to see how she handles and how the equipment on board performs.
Compared to their predecessors, the Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessels are four knots faster, carry a 30mm, not 20mm main gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and two Pacific 24 sea boats. Each ship is equipped with a flight deck (only Clyde of the first generation craft can host a helicopter) and there’s accommodation for up to 50 troops/Royal Marines to support operations ashore if needed.
Junior ratings share six-berth cabins – as on Type 45 destroyers; senior rates and officers will live in two-berth en suite cabins.
“Today marks a key moment in the generation of the ship and it is extremely exciting to be on board,” said Commander Bob Laverty, Forth’s first Commanding Officer. “Forth boasts state-of-the-art equipment, and my Ship’s Company are looking forward to developing their knowledge of the systems on board with their industry counterparts.”
The Batch 2s are from the same family as the Batch 1s “but are a completely new design,” Lt Tom Sleight, Forth’s Navigator, explained.
“The design provides a lot more operational flexibility with the large flight deck and space for the embarked force.”
“These ships will be able to conduct all of the fishery protection and domestic security duties currently undertaken by the squadron but will now also provide far more capable platform for deploying overseas such as when Mersey provided support to migrant operations in the Mediterranean or Severn and Mersey on Atlantic Patrol North.”
Ship No.2, HMS Medway, has taken Forth’s place at Scotstoun for fitting out having been floated down river from Govan in mid-August.
The NATO member may not spend much on defense, but it’s nonetheless pulling a lot of the EU’s weight. It’s time we gave the Italian’s some respect.
On the face of it, Italy is a woeful member of NATO, spending just 1.11 percent of GDP on defense — far below the alliance’s 2 percent benchmark. Only seven NATO countries spend less. But take a close look at the country’s contribution to European security and a rather different picture emerges.
Between January and June of this year, Italy’s coast guard rescued 21,540 migrants from 188 vessels, while the Italian navy brought 3,344 migrants to safety and its financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, saved nearly 400.
Add to that Italian troops serving on NATO and U.N. missions in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, as well as the country’s participation in Operation Sophia, an EU naval mission that has rescued 5,676 migrants since the beginning of the year, and it becomes clear that Italy has become Europe’s policeman.
“Yes, you can measure defense spending, but it can’t be the only metric,” said Stefano Stefanini, an Italian former ambassador to NATO. “In providing security, deployability and operations matter more than budgets.”
Italy’s coast guard conducts migrant rescue missions that often take its vessels far beyond waters normally considered coast guard territory. So does the Italian navy, even though search and rescue are not part of a navy’s normal tasks. The Guardia di Finanza’s mission is to intercept smugglers of drugs and money, not save asylum seekers.
But with people-smugglers callously overfilling their leaky vessels with people desperate to reach Italy, and with the Libyan government only now starting to assist, it would be unethical to do nothing. So the Italian armed forces rescue the migrants.
In the waters of the Mediterranean, human decency gives the Italians little choice. But their troops participate in many other missions from which Italy could reasonably ask to be excused. According to figures assembled by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), a Rome-based think tank, last year a total of 6,092 Italian troops served on international missions in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan. Some 600 Italians serve in Kosovo; another 1,100 in Lebanon. Italian troops are stationed in Libya and Somalia, too.
Counting Italian officers embedded with other countries’ armed forces, the figure exceeds 7,000. This year, another 140 Italians deployed to Latvia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence initiative. With deployment rotations — each foreign deployment position is typically filled by four service members in rotation — that means more than 28,000 Italian troops are involved in international operations.
“Today’s situation is more complicated than war or peace,” said a high-ranking official in the Italian Ministry of Defense. “We’re stabilizing an entire region.”
Last year, the international missions cost the Italian government more than €1 billion, according to IAI. And that doesn’t count the cost of the navy, coast guard and Guardia di Finanza search and rescue missions.
But here’s the paradox: all of these efforts don’t show up in NATO statistics. As a result, a country such as Greece looks like a star member of the alliance thanks to its annual defense expenditure of 2.4 percent of GDP. Though Greece rescues migrants off its coasts, it is not participating in any current EU or NATO military missions.
NATO’s statistics measure how much a member spends on defense, how much is spent in personnel and how much on equipment. But they don’t show how much a country spends on NATO-related activities.
“In addition, some countries put everything they can into the defense budget in order to approach the 2 percent target,” said Stefanini. “But Italy doesn’t; in fact, it plays down what it does in defense for domestic policy reasons.” A large part of the Italian electorate supports the political left and would be unhappy with increased defense spending.
It’s high time Italy’s allies — particularly in the EU — recognize the country’s contributions to regional security.
Many countries are, in fact, getting away with doing close to nothing to shore up Europe’s south in the knowledge that the Italians will take care of it
To be sure, it is in Italy’s interest to stabilize not only the waters surrounding it but the countries too: another exodus of Kosovars would be difficult to handle, not to mention an even larger influx of asylum seekers travelling via Libya. Lebanon faces a potentially explosive situation involving, among other things, spillover from Syria.
But the issues to which Italy devotes manpower and resources — stability in the Middle East, the Balkans and Africa — have implications that spread far beyond the country’s borders. And migration in particular has EU-wide consequences as few of those crossing the Mediterranean do so intending to stay in Italy.
“We’re trying to make allies aware of the threats coming from the southern flank,” said the Ministry of Defense official. “These threats are moving towards all of Europe.”
“No country can guarantee European security alone,” the official added.
Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, does conduct migrant response operations in the Mediterranean, and NATO’s Sea Guardian mission polices the sea. But so far most of Italy’s allies have been content to leave the country to bear the bulk of the southern flank responsibilities — and the costs of doing so.
Many countries are, in fact, getting away with doing close to nothing to shore up Europe’s south in the knowledge that the Italians will take care of it.
By Elisabeth Braw, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
August 8, 2017 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown joins Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1) today on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Baltic Sea as part of Canada’s support to NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.
On its second deployment under Op REASSURANCE, HMCS Charlottetown replaces HMCS St. John’s, which arrived in its home port of Halifax on July 17, 2017, after a six-month deployment.
The deployment of HMCS Charlottetown demonstrates Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation as part of NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.
“Canada’s participation in regional maritime security operations as part of NATO assurance activities is another demonstration of Canada’s ongoing commitment to international security and cooperation. The excellent crew of the HMCS Charlottetown is demonstrating our continued leadership on the world stage by making meaningful and enduring contributions to NATO activities in Eastern and Central Europe.”
— Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister
“The highly trained and professional ship’s company is well prepared to meet the challenges of this mission. HMCS Charlottetown is committed to further increase the Canadian Armed Forces’ ability to work alongside our Allies, contribute to enhancing NATO readiness, and help strengthen international and regional stability.”
— Commander Jeff Hutt, Commanding Officer, HMCS Charlottetown
HMCS Charlottetown is a Halifax-class frigate with a crew of approximately 240 personnel of all ranks, including an Enhanced Naval Boarding Party and a CH-124 Sea King helicopter air detachment.
The Enhanced Naval Boarding Party provides a relatively new capability for the Royal Canadian Navy that is used in support of maritime interdiction operations.
HMCS Charlottetown’s deployment is part of a range of military activities undertaken by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures through the provision of military capabilities for training, exercises, demonstrations, and assigned NATO tasks and demonstrates Canada’s commitment to promote security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe.
During its first deployment in support of Op REASSURANCE, HMCS Charlottetown conducted maritime security operations and joint NATO training exercises between June 2016 and January 2017, in the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean, Aegean and Baltic Seas, as part of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2).
The Standing NATO Maritime Groups are multinational, integrated maritime forces made up of vessels from various Allied countries. These vessels are made available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from exercises to operational missions. They also help to establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries, support partner engagement, and provide a variety of maritime military capabilities to ongoing missions.
Commander Jeff Hutt, from Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, has served in the CAF since 1998. After his initial naval training, he was assigned to HMCS Charlottetown and was twice deployed with the ship to the Arabian Sea. On board HMCS Athabaskan, he served in Operation HESTIA, Canada’s response to the earthquake in Haiti. He was Chief of Staff to the Commander of Naval Reserves in Quebec City from July 2015 to December 2016.
Operation REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe, aimed at reinforcing NATO’s collective defence and demonstrating the strength of Allied solidarity.
Department of National Defence
Russia’s new diesel-electric submarine Krasnodar has arrived at its home base in Sevastopol (Crimea) for operation in the Black Sea Fleet after performing an inter-fleet passage and accomplishing missions in the Mediterranean Sea as part of the Russian Navy’s standing task force, TASS reports from the site.
“Today’s arrival of Krasnodar, a fourth submarine, in Sevastopol, is not only the arrival of a new submarine, but we can state now that a whole unit of submarines exists in Black Sea Fleet,” fleet’s Commander, Admiral Alexander Vitko, told reporters on Wednesday.
“Four submarines are in the Black Sea, two – in the Baltic Sea, and they will shortly start their passage to the home port,” he added.
Krasnodar’s passage has continued four months, which is a certain record for the Black Sea Fleet, the commander said, adding that in the future submarines will have longer passages.
As was reported in late June, the frigates Admiral Essen, Admiral Grigorovich and the submarine Krasnodar destroyed large arms depots of the Islamic State terrorist organization (outlawed in Russia) with six cruise missiles in Syria, delivering the strikes from the eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea.
The submarine had worked on interaction assignments as part of a multiple-type tactical group with two frigates.
A keel-laying ceremony for Project 636.3 diesel-electric submarine (SSK) Krasnodar took place on February 20, 2014 at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The submarine was floated out on April 25, 2015.
The Project 636.3 (Varshavyanka-class) covers the third generation of diesel-electric submarines that are among the most noiseless underwater cruisers in the world.
They are capable of developing a surface speed of up to 20 knots and dive to a depth of 300 meters. They have a cruising capacity of 45 days and a crew of 52.
The Project 636.3 submarine displaces about 4,000 tonnes in its underwater position.
The first series of six such Project 636.3 Varshavyanka-class submarines have already been delivered to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
Six Varshavyanka-class submarines for the Pacific Fleet are planned to be built before 2022.
The European Council on Tuesday (25 July) extended the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean, despite concerns that Operation Sophia has not been effective in breaking up people-smuggling networks.
The mandate of EUNAVFOR MED, also known as Operation Sophia, was on Tuesday extended by 18 months until December 2018, as the United Nations-approved mission continues to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking in the Mediterranean.
Despite a damning report produced by the UK’s House of Lords earlier this month that insisted the mission should not continue in its current form, the Council unanimously decided to extend Sophia’s mandate and even approve some additional objectives.
Operation Sophia will now include a monitoring mechanism designed to improve the training of the Libyan coastguard, which was already a part of its mandate. It will also carry out increased surveillance in order to help cut down on illegal oil exports, while Frontex and Europol will be more involved in data sharing.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “As a matter of priority, we will start in the coming days the revision of the operational plan in order to include the new tasks.”
Operation Sophia started life as a simple search and rescue mission. The House of Lords report and Mogherini herself have acknowledged its success in this regard and highlighted the more than 30,000 people that have been saved by the joint effort.
Operation Sofia, the EU’s mission to prevent illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, has captured 101 traffickers, neutralised 387 boats and rescued 33,296 migrants at sea in the year-and-a-half it has been operating. Euractiv Spain reports.
But the operation is now in a phase that includes extra measures to break the smuggler networks, including the destruction of vessels used to ship people across the Med to Europe. It has been reported that this has pushed more and more people to attempt to make the crossing in unseaworthy craft.
There is scope for Sophia to enter a third phase, where participating member states would be allowed to enter Libyan waters to tackle the smugglers at source on the coast. But this requires a fresh UN mandate or an invitation from the country’s government.
Ireland recently became the latest EU member to join the mission, after its parliament decided to back a proposal to up its involvement in the Mediterranean from just rescue operations.
More than 100,000 people have attempted the perilous sea voyage so far this year, many in flimsy rubber dinghies and overcrowded boats.
In a further effort to try and stem the flow of people across the water, the EU on 17 July adopted measures that will see dinghy and outboard motor sales to Libya curbed. But the ministerial level decision has attracted criticism about how it will be enforced and how it will affect legitimate trade.
July 4 (UPI) — Austria’ plans to use 750 soldiers and four armored vehicles in an effort to block migrants crossing its border from Italy, the government said Tuesday.
Austria is increasing its military presence at Brenner Pass, a key trade and transport route through the Alps, officials said.
Asylum seekers are crossing the Mediterranean from the coast of Libya into Italy — a distance of 290 miles. So far this year, 101,000 migrants have entered Europe from the Mediterranean, and 2,247 people have died or are missing at sea, according to data from the Missing Migrants Project
Italy also has summoned Austria’s ambassador Rene Pollitzer.
The troops are on standby and will be sent to the border if there is an urgent need, officials said.
“I expect border controls will be introduced very soon,” Peter Doskozil, the defence minister, told the newspaper Kronen Zeitung. “But we see how the situation in Italy is becoming more acute and we have to be prepared to avoid a situation comparable to summer 2015.”
Several hundred thousands refugees and migrants streamed into Western Europe along the so-called Balkan Route after crossing the Aegean to Greece from Turkey two years ago.
Austria has border checks with Hungary and Slovenia, but in other areas it adheres to the European Unon open borders system.
France and Switzerland closed their borders to migrants last year.
Italy has said it cannot handle the level of migrant arrivals, and could close its ports and impound aid agencies’ rescue ships.
Policy experts, diplomats and military representatives met on Friday to discuss maritime cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
The meeting, hosted at Norway House in Brussels, was designed to draw lessons for future cooperation at sea, building on NATO-EU experience in countering piracy in the Indian Ocean and working side-by-side in the Mediterranean. Participants discussed all aspects of maritime cooperation: from planning through execution and post-crisis management, as well as legal considerations and the contributions of industry.
NATO and the European Union have built a solid track record of effective cooperation in the maritime domain. NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield and the EU’s Operation Atalanta worked side-by-side for several years, fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. NATO and the EU have also worked together in the Mediterranean.
Since February 2016, NATO ships have been supporting the EU in tackling illegal migration in the Aegean Sea. In July 2016, NATO launched a new maritime operation, Sea Guardian, which supports some of EU Operation Sophia’s activities in the Mediterranean Sea.
The seminar is part of 42 cooperation measures which NATO and the EU agreed in December 2016. The event is organised with the support of the Mission to Norway to the EU and the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU.
NATO and the European Union reinforce each other in a wide range of areas, from cooperation at sea, through resilience to hybrid threats, to helping build the defence capacities of partner countries.
In a joint report, presented yesterday to NATO Ministers of Defence, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and EU High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini confirmed that this cooperation is developing well and will continue, potentially expanding to new areas.