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NATO Naval Forces Dispose of Historical Ordnance in Latvia


Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) has conducted NATO Historical Ordnance Disposal Operations (HODOPS) in the Irbe Strait and the Gulf of Riga 7 – 14 April 2021.

During the operations, ENS Ugandi and FGS Datteln found four former mine lines consisting of 44 mine chairs. Close to the mine lines, the Estonian minehunter Ugandi found four type M-12 mines. Together they covered an area of six square nautical miles and identified six mine-like objects, of which five were mines and one was an empty mine shell without explosives. All five mines has been disposed of, after approval by the Latvian authorities.

The Baltic Sea is heavily littered with mines from the two former world wars, and some national studies estimate tens of thousands of mines still remain on the sea-bed. It can be too expensive and challenging for one nation to carry out a historical ordnance operation by itself, so most of the clearance is done through Allied efforts.

To locate the maximum amount of objects, Allied units need to operate in close proximity. The objects are then further identified by divers, sonars or remotely operated underwater drones. This resulted in a large amount of data passed on to the Latvian authorities, as well as reduced risk for maritime communities, such as trade and fishing industries.

“This Latvian HODOPS proved that mine countermeasure vessels are very important for the safety at sea. A mine is a very cheap weapon and is therefore has been used very often in times of conflict. And after 100 years we are still working to clear them.” said Commander of SNMCMG1, Commander Jan Wijchers of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Additionally, on the side-lines of the operation, SNMCMG1 conducted exercises with LVNS Skrunda.

On 11 April, FGS Datteln left the Group after three months of deployment within SNMCMG1. To thank the crew for their effort and time together, SNMCMG1 conducted a ceremonial steampast.

The Group is now starting their participation in the Estonia-led Open Spirit ‘21, a mine countermeasures operation near the Estonian coast together with units of the Estonian Navy, BALTRON and the Swedish Navy. Before and during the interaction we will welcome BNS Crocus (Belgium), HMS Pembroke (United Kingdom), FGS Sulzbach-Rosenberg (Germany) and HNLMS Zierikzee (The Netherlands) within the Group.

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