Estonian Navy officer commands 16-strong unit during NATO exercises

NATO vessels involved in Northern Coasts 2021.
NATO vessels involved in Northern Coasts 2021. Source: Merevägi/EDF

An officer from the Estonian Navy (Merevägi) took command of a 16-vessel-strong combat unit, as part of the NATO Northern Coasts 2021 large-scale exercise, off the coast of southern Sweden.

Cmdr. Ott Laanemets, who took on the role, said that: "The most complicated part in this exercise is achieving cooperation of the entire fleet in a very short time."

"While in [annual Estonian military exercise] Kevadtorm, it is units that have already rehearsed cooperation that are participating, in Northern Coasts, everyone came together from different directions, and after just a few days of rehearsing cooperation, all vessels had to act as a single fleet," Cmdr. Laanemets continued, according to BNS.

Over 450 personnel on 16 vessels were under his command during the maneuvers.

Mine clearance was also part of the Northern Coasts 2021 activity, BNS reports, bringing the involvement of Merevägi minehunter the EML Sakala.

Operations officer on board the Sakala, 2nd Lt. Grigori Gavrilov, said of the exercise that: "Mine clearance in the designated area this year was easier than doing so in Estonia."

"The sea floor was rather comfortable and seawater was very uniform at all depths, which means that the sonar image was understandable for the operators. Furthermore, the Sakala crew includes experienced members who have cleared mines from the Mediterranean to the polar areas of Norway, thus, surprising us is difficult," he went on.

Unlike regular mine clearance rehearsals, in this case the crew was in constant combat readiness, while the exercise scenario saw hostile units with unidentified vessels constantly located in the immediate vicinity of the Sakala, BNS reports.

This required identifying the unknown vessels, issuing a warning and, ultimately, if this was not heeded, the crew taking up position at their weapons, while earing in mind the possibility of air strikes on behalf of the enemy units.

Vessels from several other countries' navies were involved in Northern Coasts, and land-based units were also involved as well as those on sea and in the air.

The EML Sakala (M314) is a mine-hunter built in the U.K. as one of the Royal Navy's Sandown class of vessels. She was formally handed over to the Merevägi in 2007.

The Merevägi is organizationally a part of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) rather than being a separate service.

Northern Coasts involved Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1), a NATO immediate reaction force involving several member nations, including Estonia.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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