RogerBW's Blog

Dynamic Mongoose 2014-2015 18 June 2015

Dynamic Mongoose is an ongoing series of naval exercises in anti-submarine warfare, taking place off the coast of Norway. This year's exercise was rather more multinational than recent years' have been, perhaps inspired by recent reports of possibly-Russian submarines inside other nations' territorial waters. The most blatant sign that it is being taken seriously is that it happened in May rather than the usual February in the North Sea. (Still cold, but rather less horrible.)

I try to find out more details in the hope of getting wargaming scenarios out of them, and it's an interesting exercise in intelligence analysis.

For 2014, the NATO exercise page gives most of the ship names, and a bit of photo analysis reveals that the Norwegian submarine was S301 HNoMS Utsira; the Portugese boat was one of their Tridente class since that's the only sort they have in service; and the French submarine was surely a Rubis-class attack boat rather than one of their SSBNs. Just in case that page vanishes, I'll also preserve the list of surface ships and aircraft:

HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl (Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate)

Great Britain:
HMS Kent (Type 23)
2 x Merlin Mk2 (Helo)

FS Primauguet (Georges Leygues-class anti-submarine destroyer)
ATL2 (Breguet Atlantique MPA)

FGS Augsburg (Bremen-class multipurpose frigate)
FGS Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Brandenburg-class multipurpose frigate)
FGS Hamburg (Sachsen-class air-defence frigate)
FGS Oldenburg (Braunschweig-class multipurpose corvette)
FGS Magdeburg (Braunschweig-class multipurpose corvette)
FGS Frankfurt am Main (Auxiliary)
2 x P3C (MPA)

ORP Kosciuszko (O.H. Perry-class frigate)

For 2015, a full list of ships involved has not yet been released, but one can do a bit of reverse-engineering from the various claims on the exercise page and elsewhere (particularly this Dutch page).

"10 allied and 1 partner nation", "thirteen surface ships [including] the Norwegian Research Vessel H.U.SVERDRUP II and the NATO Research Vessel NRV Alliance", and "submarines from Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United States". The Haakonsvern naval base near Bergen, and the Sola air base a hundred miles south near Stavanger, are also in use.

The "three Maritime Patrol Aircraft from France and Germany" operating out of the Sola air base are probably the same two German P-3Cs and one French Atlantique as last year.

The German submarine is U33; the Swedish (partner nation) HMS Gotland; the Norwegian the Ula-class HNoMS Utvaer; the American USS Seawolf. (I would have guessed one of the Virginia-class, but I suppose they wanted to show off.)

So what are those other eleven surface ships? Lists and various photographs from the exercise reveal:

US: USS Vicksburg (Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser)
Spain: Blas de Lezo F103 (Alvaro de Bazan-class air defence frigate)
UK: HMS Portland (Type 23)
Netherlands: HNLMS Tromp (F803) (De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate)
France: Latouche-Tréville (D646) (F70-class ASW frigate)
Canada: HMCS Fredericton (Halifax-class helicopter frigate)
Poland: ORP Kaszub (Kaszub-class corvette)
Turkey: TCG Göksu (F-497) (O.H. Perry-class frigate)

and on the support side:

Germany: Spessart (A1442) (Rhon-class oiler)
France: Somme (A631) (Durance-class oiler)

which leaves one ship more unaccounted for (or perhaps the claim of thirteen was wrong). I would speculate that the Germans wouldn't want to leave their crews entirely out of the anti-submarine training, so they'd be the most likely power to contribute another ship, perhaps one of the Brandenburg- or Bremen-class multipurpose frigates.

What can we make out of this? Some of these are platforms intended to have significant ASW capabilities, such as the F70 and the Halifax. Others, like the Ticonderoga and the Alvaro de Bazan, aren't. Presumably they're there partly as targets (which the oilers will also be, in between replenishment exercises), and partly to train their crews in what to expect when the ASW specialists are going to work, and how they can contribute.

Obviously there is the usual practice in inter-force cooperation, but this is something most table wargames can't reliably reflect. A strategic-level game might well have this sort of thing as part of its force training budget.

So what's the practical wargaming effect? These are the current front-line surface ships, and any combination of them (or others of their classes) would make up a plausible NATO task force for a "ripped from tomorrow's headlines" scenario. (They do like to have a big headquarters-type ship on these things once they get sufficiently large and multinational, the Tico in 2015 and often an LPD or LPH in other exercises, so that might be worth considering when assembling a force list.) It would also be reasonable to take forces directly from this list for an introductory ASW game: one or two frigates, with attached helicopters, and a cargo ship they have to defend, versus a single submarine that has to sink the cargo ship and gets bonus points for sinking the escorts, seems like a plausible sort of scenario.

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