Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One
Mines still pose a threat to civilian and military maritime traffic. Norway regularly deploys vessels and personnel to NATO's standing minesweeper forces. In the first half of 2023, Norway has command over the force.
Standing NATO Mine Counter Measures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) is one of NATO's two standing maritime mine countermeasures groups. The multinational naval force can solve a variety of tasks and missions nearly anywhere in the world.
Since 1984, Norway has been an important contributor to NATO's Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1. Norway led the force in 1998–99, 2004–05, 2012, 2014, 2020 and now in 2023.
In the first half of 2023, Norway is in command of the force, with HNoMS Nordkapp as flagship. In 2022, the Royal Norwegian Navy took over Nordkapp after 40 years of service in the Coast Guard. The Norwegian minesweeper HNoMS Otra joined the force in February.
Norway took over command of SNMCMG1 on 12 January 2023 and will remain in command until July this year. The force and the international staff are led by Commander Senior Grade, Ole Torstein Sjo. The force also includes the vessels ENS Admiral Cowan from Estonia and German FGS Rottweil. Later this winter and spring, several other vessels will join the SNMCMG1.
The force can be deployed on short notice and is an important contribution to naval operations. The mine countermeasures group regularly removes sea mines from previous conflicts and thereby reducing the risk to maritime activity, as well as contributing to environmental clean-up.
In addition to mine clerance, the force's main tasks are to patrol the waters of Northern Europe to show NATO presence and monitor ship traffic. This helps the Alliance in gaining situational awareness of what is going on at sea and in ports in NATO's areas of interest.
The force is led by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), based in Mons, Belgium. Day-to-day operations are delegated to NATO's maritime command in Northwood, UK.
NATO's Standing Mine Countermeasures Group was established in Belgium on 11 May 1973 and was renamed the Standing Naval Force Channel. The name was later changed to Mine Counter Measure Force North, before being renamed Standing NATO Mine Counter Measure Group 1.
The founding of the force was a recognition of the importance of protecting the strategically important sea routes against a possible mine threat.
Even today, European waters still carry huge amounts of mines and other types of ammunition and explosives after two world wars. This still makes mines a threat within maritime warfare. Many states have the capacity to deploy sea mines, which is an effective way to close ports, canals and vital sea routes.