The UK Royal Navy Sandown-class mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV), HMS Ramsey (M110) has taken her place alongside NATO counterparts in the Baltic.
The Faslane-based ship – which specialises in finding mines in deep waters – is spending the next five weeks with an international task group dealing with problems past, present and future.
She takes over from her sister HMS Grimsby which earlier this spring was attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1), the NATO force dedicated to eliminating the threat of historic mines in the waters of northern Europe, practising dealing with present-day mines, and promoting the alliance and freedom of the seas.
Ramsey arrived during the second phase of a nine-day exercise by the NATO group as it conducted its latest operation to remove historic ordnance from the depths off the coast of Estonia. Tallinn and the approaches to it in the Gulf of Finland witnessed particularly heavy fighting in the summers of 1941 and 1944 especially. That, plus extensive mine laying during both world wars mean that, despite more than 75 years of peace and sweeping/clearance operations, the seabed is still peppered with aged ordnance.
The NATO group – Ramsey, plus flagship FGS Donau, Norwegian minesweeper Otra and German minehunter Fulda – were joined by Estonian naval forces for the concerted effort, including two old friends. The Estonians snapped up three Sandown-class ships back in 2006, two of which – Admiral Cowan (ex-HMS Sandown) and Ugandi (formerly HMS Bridport) – took part in the joint exercise.
Together, the international force scoured an area of 58 square miles (roughly the size of Bristol), identified 180 mine-like objects, three of which turned out to be historic mines… which were neutralised.
“I am delighted to have joined Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1 on operations in the Baltic,” said Lieutenant Commander Joel Roberts, HMS Ramsey’s Commanding Officer. “Given the uncertainty caused by COVID, it is really important we are able to continue delivering on operations. The training value gained since joining the group has been brilliant and my crew and I are looking forward to integrating further over the coming weeks.”
Task group commander Henning Knudsen-Hauge said the success of the operation off Tallinn demonstrated that no matter which nation joined NATO on mine warfare operations, near identical procedures and communications meant it was “almost ‘plug and play’”.
He continued: “We covered quite a large area, and investigated a lot of mine-like objects, resulting in three identified and neutralised mines. This low number of mines found is actually a positive result, as it proves low historic mine density in the area.
“Together with our Estonian allies, we made the Baltic Sea a safer place, and enhanced NATO’s overall situational awareness in the area.”