It has been two months since the Poles took command of the NATO Standing Mine Defence Force Group 1 (SNMCMG1). The staff directing the team’s activities is made up of officers and non-commissioned officers from the 8th Coastal Defence Flotilla, who embarked on board the flagship of the entire NATO team – ORP Kontradmirał X. Czernicki, together with ORP Hańcza and ORP Drużno, form the Polish Military Contingent Czernicki.
The SNMCMG1 team completed its participation in the Sandy Coasts 2023 exercise in the North Sea less than a week ago, and this Saturday, another exercise called Northern Coasts 2023 begins, one of the largest naval manoeuvres in the Baltic Sea region.
– The calendar is extremely tight, but the participation in the already completed exercise Sandy Coast 2023 off the coast of the Netherlands allowed us to harmonise the team and I am convinced that this experience will pay off during Northern Coasts. It is worth mentioning that this is also an exercise of an incomparably larger scale, as it does not focus only on mine warfare aspects. I am very glad that apart from the command ship ORP Czernicki, the team also includes Polish minesweepers of 207P design, i.e. OORP Drużno and Hańcza. Thanks to this, we gain at the national level, but also at the supranational level, as we complement the capabilities of the team, which many countries do not have, and certainly not to the extent of the Polish Navy,’ Lieutenant Commander Piotr Bartosewicz, Commander of the NATO Standing Mine Defence Force Group 1.
Northern Coasts 2023 is an exercise aimed at improving the ability of naval forces to conduct combined stability and security operations in a region that is particularly important from our point of view. The joint execution of tasks is an opportunity to take cooperation to a higher level and to exchange experience between allies. Some 3,200 soldiers, nearly 30 ships (including submarines), a dozen aircraft, and land-based units will participate in the manoeuvres.
The main task of the SNMCMG1 ships, headed by the Poles in July, is to maintain the safety of navigation by searching for, detecting and destroying dangerous underwater objects. Apart from this, an important task of the team is to demonstrate the solidarity of the alliance members and to carry out one of the most important joint tasks, i.e. to ensure the safety of maritime communication routes. In this way, the team’s ships form a mine defence system in sea areas referred to as the ‘Mine Shield’ for Europe. These forces can also be directed to support anti-terrorist operations, life-saving operations and emergency response. The naval teams are among the most effective elements of the so-called NATO Response Force (NRF).
The teams spend most of their time at sea, including coordinating the interoperability of their constituent ships and participating in manoeuvres with the navies of NATO member and partner states. Since July 2023, the team has been commanded by a Polish staff from the 8th Coastal Defence Flotilla. There are currently eight ships operating in the team: ORP Czernicki, ORP Hańcza, ORP Drużno, HMCS Shawinigan and HMCS Summerside from Canada, BNS Crocus from Belgium, HNLMS Vlaardingen from the Netherlands and the German FGS Bad Bevensen.