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May 29 2020

Week 22 Northern Europe Operational Update

This week, Spain is completing its first month leading the current rotation of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, after taking over on the 1st May. Based at Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania, the Spanish Air Force is helping to protect the airspace of NATO’s Baltic Allies - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania - until the end of August. Spain’s deployment is supplemented by detachments of UK jets at Šiauliai, together with French jets based at Ämari Airbase in Estonia. The Alliance Baltic Air Policing deployment is a defensive mission that sees NATO nations sending planes to patrol the airspace of the three Baltic States, who do not have fighter jets of their own. The Air Policing programme keeps NATO fighter jets on alert 24/7 and ready to scramble in case of suspicious air activity close to the Alliance’s borders. In the first quarter of 2020, Allied jets executing NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission scrambled around 25 times to safeguard Allied airspace.

Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) concluded a 9-day joint training programme with the Estonian forces on 26 May. The exercise gathered seven ships from four nations as well as several smaller surface craft, airplanes and helicopters in the Baltic Sea. The first part of the training focused on naval mine countermeasures, in the form of Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations off the coast of Estonia. In total, the group, together with the Estonian mine countermeasure vessels, covered an area of 44 square nautical miles and identified 180 mine-like objects. Of them, 3 historical mines were neutralized. “This low number of mines found is actually a positive result, as it proves low historic mine density in the area. Together with our Estonian allies, we made the Baltic Sea a safer place, and enhanced NATO’s overall situational awareness in the area”, said the Commander of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1, Commander Henning Knudsen-Hauge from the Royal Norwegian Navy. The training exercise was carried out between 18- 26 May after a short logistical stop in Estonia’s capital city Tallinn from15-18 May. SNMCMG1 currently consists of the German flagship and replenishment vessel ‘Donau’, the Norwegian minesweeper ‘Otra’, the German minehunter ‘Fulda’ and the British minehunter ‘Ramsey’. In addition, the Estonian mine countermeasure vessels ‘Wambola’,’Admiral Cowan’, ‘Ugandi’ and airborne assets from the Estonian Air Force took part in the joint exercise.


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