NAPLES, Italy (March 21, 2011) — The Standing NATO Maritime Mine Counter-measures Group 2 has left the Port of Manama, Bahrain and is currently exercising with the United Kingdom and United States ships of Combined Task Force 52 and French ships FS Croix du Sud and FS Var.
CTF 52 is a mine counter-measures force of the Coalition Forces Maritime Component Command overseen by the United States Navy 5th Fleet. It operates regularly to ensure free and unfettered use of the sea lanes in the central Persian Gulf, one of the world’s critical stretches of sea for international commerce.
“This is the start of what is going to be a very busy and very profitable exercise for my group. These are ships that operate in these waters on a regular basis and we have a lot to learn from them, “said Capt. Georgios Pelekanakis, commander of SNMCMG2. “But we will also demonstrate just what a great team I have in SNMCMG2”.
SNMCMG2 entered the Persian Gulf on March 7 to carry out a month long deployment in the area on Operation INAS BAHR (Friendly Seas). The deployment is aimed at promoting practical military cooperation with Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries while fostering close links with regional navies and other maritime organizations. It represents an excellent opportunity for military dialogue to enhance understanding. It also aims to promote opportunities to achieve interoperability through active participation in selected military exercises.
“Although we are here principally to carry out ICI activities we were hoping all along that this ad hoc exercise would take place. It’s a tribute to the planners that they were able to put this all together in a short time,” said Pelekanakis.
The port visit in Bahrain gave the crews of SNMCMG2 opportunity to get to know the CTF 52 ships and crews according to Lt. Giampiero Sanna, Public Affairs Officer for SNMCMG2. “The mine hunters have a lot in common but there enough differences for us always to learn something even in port. Now at sea with a challenging schedule we will get a chance to really work on our interoperability.”
Vice Admiral Rinaldo Veri, Italian Navy and Commander of Maritime Command Naples, the NATO headquarters with operational command of SNMCMG2 said “I assumed command of this headquarters as recently as March 10 when the group had just entered the Gulf. I am extremely proud of these men and women operating at such a strategic distance and naturally I keep myself briefed daily on their progress. I am also professionally very satisfied that CTF 52 was able to plan this excellent exercise opportunity and that French forces are also participating. Everyone involved stands to benefit”.
SNMCMG2 currently comprises:
• HS Spetsai Frigate Greece (Flagship)
• FGS Herten Mine hunter Germany
• HS Kallisto Mine hunter Greece
• ITS Viareggio Mine hunter Italy
• ESPS Tajo Mine hunter Spain
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Information about the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is available at web page http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_58787.htm