RogerBW's Blog

BALTOPS 2015 07 August 2015

The NATO-and-allied-countries naval exercise in the southern Baltic, BALTOPS 2015, took place between 5 and 20 June of this year. I was digging in the hope of getting some information about any wargames that might be involved, and noticed something interesting.

First, you can easily find identical PR stories by searching for the name, but this is a semi-live account of what was happening, and this is a image depicting the ships involved (mostly accurate, though some of the details are wrong). This video shows some of the amphibious-assault exercises.

The presence of San Antonio and Ocean implies that amphibious assault was the main focus, and that's what got reported, but fully half the ships here are minelayers, minesweepers, or otherwise mine-related as their primary job.

Now obviously one of the purposes of this exercise is to wave naval genitalia in front of the Russians, but it's interesting to see this emphasis: not "we can stand up to your fleet", and not anti-submarine games like the Dynamic Mongoose exercise series, but "we can deal with your mines and lay our own". The Dutch in particular have plenty of front-line combatant ships, and indeed LPDs/LPHs of their own, but have chosen instead to send four minehunters and a survey ship.

(It's also interesting to see which countries have the same ships that were in DMON15: Canada and Turkey, the ones with the longest transit times to the North Sea.)

The reported exercises seem to have consisted of amphibious landings at the Ravlunda range in Sweden, then similar activity at the military exercise area near Ustka in Poland.

Anyway, here's the full list with classes and correct spellings:

Royal Navy
M41 HMS Quorn, Hunt minehunter
F234 HMS Iron Duke, Type 23
L12 HMS Ocean, LPH

Polish Navy
632 ORP Bukowo, Gardno minesweeper
637 ORP Resko, Gardno minesweeper
623 ORP Mewa, Jaskółka minesweeper
643 ORP Mamry, Mamry minesweeper
641 ORP Druzno, Gardno minesweeper
644 ORP Wigry, Mamry minesweeper
821 ORP Lublin, Lublin transport minelayer
822 ORP Gniezno, Lublin transport minelayer
297 ORP Kondor, Kobben class submarine (formerly HNoMS S-319 Kunna)

USN
CG-69 USS Vicksburg, Ticonderoga
DDG-109 USS Jason Dunham, Arleigh Burke IIA
LPD-17 USS San Antonio, San Antonio

RCN
337 HMCS Fredericton, Halifax FFH

Marinen (Sweden)
K12 HMS Malmö, Stockholm corvette

(There's also a mention of CB90s, i.e. Stridsbåt 90, basically a step up from a RHIB.)

RNoN
M351 HNoMS Otra, Alta minesweeper
M352 HNoMS Rauma, Alta minesweeper

Merivoimat Marinen
02 FiMLS Hämeenmaa, Hämeenmaa minelayer

Royal Danish Navy
F362 HDMS Peter Willemoes, Iver Huitfeldt FFG
F363 HDMS Niels Juel, Iver Huitfeldt FFG
L16 HDMS Absalon, Absalon command/support ship
M/V Blue Capella, multipurpose offshort support vessel
HDMS MSF-1, MSF-class drone minehunter
MSD-5 HDMS Hirsholm, Holm multirole boat fitted for RC minehunting

Marine Nationale
A631 FS Somme, Durance light replenishment oiler
M641 FS Eridan, Eridan minehunter

Turkish Naval Forces
F496 TCG Göksu, OH Perry FFG (formerly USS Estocin)

Estonian Navy
M314 ENS Sakala, Sandown minehunter (formerly HMS Inverness)
A-432 ENS Tasuja, gunboat of unknown type

Lithuanian Naval Forces
P-11 LNS Zemaitis, Grisha corvette
M-53 LNS Skalvis, Hunt minehunter (formerly HMS Cottesmore)
M-54 LNS Kursis, Hunt minehunter (formerly HMS Dulverton)

Latvian Naval Forces
A-53 LVNS Virsaitis, Vidar minelayer (formerly RNoNS Vidar)

Deutsche Marine
F214 FGS Lübeck, Bremen multipurpose frigate
F260 FGS Braunschweig, Braunschweig multipurpose corvette
P6123 FGS Hermerlin, Gepard FAC
P6129 FGS Wiesel, Gepard FAC
P6130 FGS Hyäne, Gepard FAC
M1093 FGS Auerbach/Oberpfalz, Ensdorf minesweeper
A1458 FGS Fehmarn, salvage tug
A516 FGS Donau, Elbe tender

Royal Netherlands Navy
M857 HNLMS Makkum, Tripartite minehunter
M861 HNLMS Urk, Tripartite minehunter
M862 HNLMS Zierikzee, Tripartite minehunter
M864 HNLMS Willemstad, Tripartite minehunter
A803 HNLMS Luymes, hydrographic survey ship

Looking at AIS records with Vessel Finder has revealed other vessels in the area of operations, such as the Danish navy's transport ship A559 Sleipner, their diving support vessel (last surviving Standard Flex 300 modular patrol vessel) Soeloeven, the unknown Polish naval ship KTR-851, and the training ship Iskra and auxiliaries Czernicki and Heweliusz. Some ships, such as the British, Canadian, French and American participants, very rarely showed up on Vesselfinder; perhaps they turned off their AIS transponders, which is certainly allowed. Fredericton showed up as "NATO WARSHIP 337" on her way towards a port call in Copenhagen on the 18th. A variety of merchants and fishing boats were passing through, as close as a couple of miles away from the fleet, and very often between different elements of the fleet, which suggests some scenario possibilities: "terrorists" attempt to disrupt an exercise with a submarine hiding under a noisy civilian craft, or a missile launched from a cargo ship…

Tags: 2010s naval

See also:
Dynamic Mongoose 2014-2015


  1. Posted by John Dallman at 10:10am on 07 August 2015

    That is interesting. A consequence of Russia's limited access to the sea has always been that it has excellent opportunities for mine warfare. So it has seen mines as primary, and economical, tactics. Demonstrating that "We have lots of mine warfare capability, even if the USN isn't much good at it" thus seems like sensible deterrence.

  2. Posted by Ron at 08:07pm on 08 August 2015

    Oh wow, saw this on Harpoon mailing list and just from looking at subject I thought you'd run another pbem game and I had missed it!

    Wonder if we'll ever send a LCS to the Baltic (for exercises or whatever) once they get the minehunting module worked out.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 09:17pm on 08 August 2015

    Just finished one - writeup soon.

    The USN doesn't seem to have the will to do minehunting: even if the module had the best sonar ever, it would still be mounted on a relatively noisy ship. But yeah, once they have it nominally in service I'm sure it'll end up in exercises like this.

  4. Posted by Ron at 09:46pm on 10 August 2015

    The module is part of ship, but the actual mine hunting equipment is either towed by an MH-60S or by a UUV, so ship's noise does not play a part at all.

    Yah, noise from the waterjets will mess up using a towed array for ASW, but for mines it should be OK. More on ALL the LCS modules progress here: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/its-all-in-the-package-the-littoral-combat-ships-mission-modules-016450/

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