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Italy Hands Command of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two to Spain

During a ceremony held in Rota, Spain, the Command of Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) was officially handed over to Spanish Navy Captain Manuel Aguirre Aldereguía on 30 June 2020. The outgoing Commander, Rear Admiral Paolo Fantoni, Italian Navy, held the Command of the Group for a six-month duration from December 2019. The NATO pennant was lowered on board the outgoing flagship, Italian FREMM-class frigate Fasan, and hoisted on the incoming flagship, Spanish AEGIS-class frigate Alvaro de Bazan, on which the new Command will be embarked.

The ceremony was conducted in full compliance with preventative measures set in force for COVID-19. The companies of both flagships, having spent a quarantine period on board of their respective units, could attend the ceremony without added risk. Attending the ceremony were four VIPs, representative of the Italian Navy, Spanish Navy and the United States Navy. Their presence on the flight deck of Fasan necessitated protective equipment and social distancing to guarantee the safety of the ship companies.

During the Italian Command of SNMG2, 13 different units from Italian, Bulgarian, Canadian, French, Greek, Romanian and Turkish navies have been part of the Task Group. A separate Task Unit, assigned to the Aegean Sea activity, routinely included five units from three different NATO countries. SNMG2 deployed in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea for a total of 173 days, providing high readiness patrols and presence in their areas of operations.

SNMG2 has provided NATO with a very high readiness force at sea, despite COVID-19 emergency, capable of performing multinational exercises and operations giving assurance to the Allies and deterring any potential aggressors. The Group has supported NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian (OSG), monitoring Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs), contributing to Maritime Security, while the Aegean Sea Task Unit continuously monitored the migration crisis, with units from Hellenic and Turkish Navies, under the command of a German naval unit and Commander.

During a 20-day Black Sea deployment, SNMG2 participated in passing exercises with partner nation Georgia, exercising with the Georgian Coast Guard. In the final week of the Italian Command of SNMG2, the opportunity arose to conduct passing exercises with two units of the Tunisian Navy, followed on from a successful visit to Tunis, prior to the virus outbreak in February.

In January Standing NATO Maritime Group Two interacted with FS Charles de Gaulle Carrier Strike Group, providing an invaluable opportunity to enhance interoperability and inter-allied cooperation

“I want to thank Rear Admiral Paolo Fantoni, his staff, and all of the ships who have contributed so much to Standing NATO Maritime Group Two for the last six months. Bravo Zulu! The global COVID-19 pandemic has set us all challenges. Together, you have worked with professionalism and dedication to overcome the difficulties presented by the situation, and demonstrated the strength and adaptability of NATO to our Allies and to those who watch us. I am sure that Captain Manuel Aguirre will continue on the same course, and contribute to develop and prove the readiness of our forces at sea.” Vice Admiral Keith Blount, Royal Navy, Commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command

“I am honoured to be taking command of SNMG2 – NATO’s very high readiness maritime response to threats posed by terrorism and extremism and to the regional instability. As my team complete their final preparations ahead of our operational tasking, I am reminded of our ability to constantly adapt. Under my command, I expect our combined Task Group capabilities to be ready at all times and, if necessary, to be deployed in support of the Allaince’s objectives. Together, we are both determined and ready to deal with any eventuality that we may confront. I am confident that we will continue to uphold the core principles of our Alliance: solidarity, unity and cohesion.” Captain Manuel Aguirre, Spanish Navy, Incoming Standing NATO Maritime Group Two Commander

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

Canada’s contribution to SNMG2 is through its Op REASSURANCE. As well, Canada was in command of SNMG2 before Italy.

SNMG2 is one of four Standing Naval Forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff onboard and the ships of the group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.

Since December 2019, SNMG2 has consisted of between seven and twelve ships provided from across the Alliance, and allocated into two Task Units:

  1. Task Unit One, led by a high-readiness German Commander of Task Unit o/b a German Navy Flagship, is dedicated to the migration crisis in the Aegean Sea, and has included patrol ships from Greece and Turkey; and
  2. Task Unit Two consists of larger warships, and is responsible for patrolling throughout the balance of the Mediterranean and Black Sea region. It has included two Italian Flagships, and frigates from Bulgaria, Canada, France, Greece, Romania and Turkey.

Rear Admiral Paolo Fantoni assumed command of SNMG2 on December 16, 2019, and hoisted his flag in the Italian frigate Carabiniere, Canadian frigate Fredericton, Turkish frigate Salihreis and finally, from 26 March, on the Italian frigate Virginio Fasan.

His Command was supported by eight international staff members (from Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Romania, Turkey and the United Kingdom), nine dedicated Italian staff members and a number of Flagship staff members who provided dual-role support.

Captain Manuel Aguirre will command SNMG2 from 1 July 2020 until end of June 2021. As Commander of SNMG2 he will continue to contribute to regional maritime security and will deliver an extensive program of NATO and national capacity building exercises, while contributing to NATO reassurance measures by visiting both NATO and non-NATO ports.

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