Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean? (Part 2)

The year 2015 will be remembered by the horrendous stories of ordinary people who had to leave their homes, possessions, who had to made painful and dangerous voyages to reach Europe just to survive.
If you think the refuge crises was bad in 2015 it will be a lot worse in 2016.

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Numbers of irregular migrants rescued from the sea by Turkish Coast Guard in the frist two months of 2015  and 2016.

First the number of people trying to cross Aegean to go To Europe has increased dramatically. According to the statistics of Turkish Coast Guard number of refuges rescued from the sea in the first two months of 2016 is 14.378. This represents an almost 10 fold increase compared to same period in 2015.

Furthermore to make the things far more worse these numbers will climb higher as thousands of Syrians are running away from their demolished villages and towns because of the indiscriminate bombing of Russian Air Force on behalf of Syrian regime. The high water mark may still to come.

And European countries are not offering the even the lukewarm welcome they have given to the refuges in 2015. Existence of these immigrants are causing sever political tensions in most of the host countries. These tensions will have dire consequences for all political parties in the next election cycle.

Since Europe doesn’t want to harbour any more refugees it is trying to stop the influx by protecting its sea borders more efficiently.

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To hop across the Aegean is still the most convenient way to reach for Europe.

The Aegean Sea offers the most convenient router for the refugees. The close proximate of many Greek island to Turkish mainland makes it possible for thousands of refugees to reach to EU by entering Greece. The sea trip from Turkish mainland to Greek islands on overfilled and unstable RHIBs is often dangerous and deadly. %90 percent of 316 irregular immigration incidents in the first two months of 2016 have happened in Aegean according to Turkish Coast Guard.

Since early February, NATO, EU, Greece  and Turkey are trying to formulate plans how NATO’s assigned maritime task force SNMG-2 will perform its anti-immigration operation in the Aegean Sea.

This operation was conceived right after the German Chancellor Frau Merkel’s visit to Turkey in early February 2016.  Germany, Greece and Turkey proposed and in a record-breaking 3 days’ time NATO’s Foreign Ministers have approved the plan to commit SNMG-2 for this mission.

SNMG-2 currently consists of German Navy flagship FGS Bonn, Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Fredericton, Turkish Navy frigate TCG Barbaros and Greek Navy frigate HS Salamis. France and Great Britain have also disclosed that they are sending warships to reinforce the task force. The units are patrolling in the assigned areas and conducting reconnaissance, monitoring and surveillance activities.

According to a press release from 6th March, the commanders of NATO have defined SNMG-2’s area of activity in close consultation and coordination with both Greece and Turkey. Their activities in territorial waters will be carried out in consultation and coordination with both Allies. The purpose of NATO’s deployment is not to stop or push back migrant boats, but to help our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the European Union, in their efforts to tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.

NATO’s Maritime Command has also agreed with FRONTEX on arrangements at the operational and tactical level. NATO and FRONTEX will be able to exchange liaison officers and share information in real time, to enable FRONTEX, as well as Greece and Turkey, to take action in real-time.

NATO has gained some knowledge by conducting anti piracy operations in Gulf of Aden and must have the knowledge to differentiate between the small plastic boats full of immigrants and ordinary fishermen. Thus they may apply the lessons they have learned in Gulf of Aden for a good use in Aegean. I have personally talked with a few sailors of Turkish Coast Guard operation in Aegean and they are suffering from various psychological symptoms as they fish day after day dead bodies mostly children and women from the sea. Thus presence of a NATO fleet might ease their burden.

But I still have my misgiving about the intentions of NATO’s mission and I am very sceptical about this whole thing because instead of draining the swamp Europe is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that Europe uses the NATO hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

Dynamic Manta 2016 Has Started

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Turkey is participating to the DYMA 2016 with one CN-235 ASW plane, the submarine TCG Dolunay and a

One of the largest anti submarine warfare exercises organised by NATO has started to-day off the coast of Sicily.Exercise Dynamic Manta 2016 will be held in Central Mediterranean where the ports and airbases on the island will host ships, submarines and air planes. The exercise will end of 4th March 2016.

Submarines from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, under the control of NATO Submarine Command (COMSUBNATO), will join 4 surface ships from France, Italy and Spain. Host nation Italy is providing support from the Augusta Naval Base, Catania Harbour and the Sigonella Air Base in Catania.

To support the simulated multi-threat environment, 9 Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Helicopters from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States will operate from Sigonella Air Base under the control of personnel from NATO Maritime Air Command (COMMARAIRNATO).

The aim of this exercise is to provide all participants with complex and challenging warfare training to enhance their interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills, with due regard to safety.
NATO has not published a list of participants yet but I was able to find the names of the following units:

Number Name Type Country
D-642 FS Montcalm Frigate France
A-608 FS Var Tanker France
S-352 TCG Dolunay Submarine Turkey
S-121 HS Pipinos Submarine Greece
S-73 SPS Mistral Submarine Spain
F-81 SPS Santa Maria Frigate Spain

 

Can NATO Really Help With The Migrant Crisis In Aegean?

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Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 trains with Turkish Navy. From left to right: F-501 TCG Bodrum, 337 HMCS Fredericton, A-1413 FGS Bonn, F-494 TCG Gökova, F-244 TCG Barbaros

Last week NATO has decided in a very unorthodox speedy way -in a very un-NATO fashion- to deploy one of her naval task force to the Aegean sea to deter people-smugglers taking migrants from Turkey to Greece.

Dispatching Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2)to the Aegean was not a big deal since the task force spend the previous week near Aksaz Naval Base in Marmaris conducting joint trainings with Turkish Navy. The task force was literally just a few hours away when NATO Defence Ministers agreed that NATO should provide support to assist with the refugee and migrant crisis on 11 February 2016.

The SNMG-2 is made up by the A-1413 FGS Bonn, 337 HMCS Frederiction, ITS Libeccio and TCG Barbaros.  The flagship of the task force is the German auxiliary FGS Bonn. She is a combat stores ship capable of underway replenishment and can carry 7,850 tons fuel; 1,330 tons water; 280 tons cargo; 220 tons ammunition; 115 tons lubricants.  The others are frigates from Canadian, Italian and Turkish Navies, build to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and ships.

It is clear that none of these ships are specially designed to the given task of contribute critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stressed that this mission is “not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats,” but about contributing “critical information and surveillance to help counter human trafficking and criminal networks.” As part of the agreement, NATO will co-operate closely with national coastguards and the European Union. Military authorities are now working out the details of the mission.

And General Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), said that deployment of SNMG-2 was not about stopping or pushing back refugee boats. NATO will provide critical intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance information to others to stop the human trafficking and criminal networks in co-operation with national coastguards and the Frontex. The SNMG-2 will be tasked to do monitoring and other support tasks

The seat of purpose for every naval action is on land. The criminal and human trafficking networks are on land. On the sea are just the migrants trying to survive and cross the sea to the other side. Thus it just does not makes sence for NATO to send one oiler and 3 frigates to fish the helpless migrants from the sea and return them back to Turkey. While the ships of SNMG-2 especially the frigates are capable of gathering information about their enemies through their sensors, I have my doubts if these sensors will be adequate to fulfill the given task in this mission. Searching and locating large metal targets on the surface or submerged is one thing locating small dinghies made from plastic is something else.

If NATO nations really wanted to do anything to stop the these criminal networks they should have sent specialised police officers or other law enforcement forces or may be some specialised intelligence gathering ships.

The migrant crisis has a very destabilising effect on the European nations and indirectly threatens the security. But instead of draining the swamp NATO is trying to kill the individual mosquitoes. And what makes this effort worse is that NATO uses a hammer is stead of a fly swatter.

 

NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 Conducts Training In Marmara Sea

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Spanish mine hunter ESPS Tambre (left) and the Bulgarian mine sweeper BGS Shkval (right). Photo: SNMCMG-2

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The flagship of the task force TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa. Photo: SNMCMG-2

The task force has started its recent activities in Turkish naval base in Erdek, Balıkesir in early January. Erdek is the home port of the Turkish mine hunter ships. TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa replaced her sister TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa as the flagship of the task force. Following this change the task force sailed to the Aegean Sea to conduct a port visit in İzmir and some training activities in Saros Bay in Northern Aegean.

The ships of NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 passed through Çanakkale Strait on 27 January 2015 and entered Marmara Sea. Later in this month the task force will sail through Istanbul Strait and enter the Black Sea to participate in Bulgarian mine counter measures exercise Poseidon between 20 and 27 February 2016.

TCG Edremit Joins NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2

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M-262 TCG Enez, sister ship to TCG Edremit. Photo: Devrim Yaylalı

The Engin class mine hunter, M-261 TCG Edremit has joined NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2. She will remain deployed till 24 April 2016. and will spend 72 days on sailing.

SNMCMG-2, under the Command of Turkish Navy, made a port visit to Izmir between 15 and 17 January 2015. The other port visits planed for SNMCMG-2 will be in Çanakkale, Erdek, İstanbul, Burgas, Batumi, Patras, Koper, Bar, Split, Venice, Bari and Toronto.

Between 20 and 27 February 2016, SNMCMG-2 will take part in Poseidon Naval Exercise organised by Bulgarian Navy. The task force will also take part in Exercise Ariadne, organised by Greek Navy between 4 and 13 March 2015.

This is the current composition of SNMCMG-2:

Number
Name
Nation
Type
A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasanpaşa Turkey Flagship
M-261 TCG Edremit Turkey Mine hunter
M-33 SPS Tambre Spain Mine hunter
62 BGS Shkval Bulgaria Mine sweeper

SNMG-1 Visiting Istanbul

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Interestingly only the Canadian frigate has a floating barrier as a protection against small boats. Are the Spaniards and the Portuguese expendable or is there a specific thread against Canadian warship?

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The Spanish frigate ESPS Blas De Lezo inside the flagship of SNMG-1 NRP Francisco de Almeida.

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This is a very lonely Buffalo very far away from home.

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HMAC Winnipeg has her legacy SPS-49 radar replaced with modern SMART Mk2 3D radar during The Halifax Class Modernisation/Frigate Life Extension (FELEX) programme.

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The Spanish frigate ESPS Blas De Lezo inside the flagship of SNMG-1 NRP Francisco de Almeida. The difference of their sizes is very obvious in this photo.

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Since 3 December 2015 the three ship strong NATO Standing Naval Group One is in Istanbul.Today I had the opportunity to go near to the ships and take some more photos.

NATO Maritime Group One In Istanbul

SNMG-1 is in Istanbul.

SNMG-1 is in Istanbul. ESPS Blaz De Lezo between the pier and NRP Francisco de Almeida. HMCS Winnipeg is right behind the Spanish ship.

On 3 December 2015 Standing NATO Maritime Group One, consisting of the flag-ship F-334 NRP Francisco de Almeida, F-103 ESPS Blaz de Lezo and FFG-338 HMCS Winnipeg arrived for a port visit in Istanbul.

The duration of this port visit was not announced. It is also not clear whether this visit was planed before the shooting down of the Russian Su-24M by a Turkish F-16C.

It is worth to note that this visit is happening just after the latest NATO announcement to boost Turkish security.

This is the second time in 2015 that SNMG-1 is visiting Istanbul. Click here and here to read on the previous visit.

SNMCMG-2 In Montenegro

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Turkish and Montenegrin divers before Turkish mine hunter TCG Akçakoca before an underwater ship inspection. Photo: WO ARTIGUES of HQ MARCOM

The Turkish led NATO mine warfare task force Standing NATO MCM Group 2 is continuing its presence in the Adriatic Sea.

Last week the ships of the task force made passing exercise with the Croatian Naval units LM-51 HRVS Korcula,  RTOP-42 HRVS Dubrovnik and RTOP-21 HRVS Sibenik and visited Spit port.

The task force is now in Bar, Montenegro and is conducting small scaled joint exercises to enhance interoperability with the Montenegrin Navy through shared training activities,

Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 Is In Istanbul

On 24 July 2015 Friday, the two ship strong Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 arrived in Istanbul for a port visit.
The task force made its northbound passage on 4 July 2015 late in the evening and spend the allowed 21 days exercising with Bulgarian and Romanian navies.

The ships are expected to leave Istanbul on 27 July 2015 Monday.

It is nice to see these ships in Istanbul and to observe them. Both ships are a result of the requirements of Netherlands Maritime Forces. Both ships are constructed in the Netherlands 9 years apart. The change in size, weaponry and sensors is striking. The change for a bigger ship with a emphasize on air defense.

The change for a bigger ship however resulted in reduced numbers. While there were 8 ship of the class of NRP De Almeida there are only 4 ships of the class of ZrMS Tromp.

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ZrMs Tromp and NRP De Almeida side by side. You can see the revolution in Dutch naval requirements. Both ship are constructed for Dutch Navy with 10 years apart.

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ZrMs Tromp and NRP De Almeida docked in Istanbul. The Portuguese ship is the flagship of the two ship strong task force.

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Stern view of ZrMs Tromp and NRP De Almeida.The difference in size, sensor and armament is very obvious.

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While the self-protection system and anti ship missiles remain the same the anti air missiles and the main target detection sensors has changed.

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A side by side comparison of the two ships main detection and fire control sensors.

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Portuguese Super Lynx helicopter: Hooters.

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The main mast of ZrMs Tromp. From top: Thales Sabre ESM antenna, APAR fire control radar and Satcom antennas and Mirador electro optical system.

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The main mast of ZrMs Tromp. From top: A seagull, Thales Sabre ESM antenna, APAR fire control radar

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Mirador electro optical system.

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Thales Smart -L 3D radar. This radar will receive ballistic missile detection capability after its upgrade in 2018.

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The Mk32 Mod9 fixed torpedo tubes on ZrMs Tromp. I wonder why they have not covered them with a panel to further reduce the radar signature.

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Signaal Goalkeeper CIWS system.

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The main mast of NRP De Almeida. A top of the mast is the Signaal Smart 3D radar. The two STIR fire control radars are at the base of the mast.

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The bridge of ZrMs Tromp with its navigation radars and communication antennas.

SNMG-1 Sneaked Through Istanbul

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida, the flag ship of SNMG-1, passing through Istanbul.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida sneaking though Istanbul.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp making her northbound passage.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp, illuminated by a leisure boat, as she is passing though Istanbul.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp, passing though Istanbul.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida illuminated by the lights of the bridge. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-803 Tromp, illuminated by the lights of the bridge. Photo: Saadettin Irmakçı. Used with permission.

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F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

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F-803 HNLMS Tromp and the moon. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

 

NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two is not the only NATO naval task force deployed to Bulgaria this weekend.

On 4 July 2015 late in the night at 22.30 local time the SNMG-1 ships F-334 NRP D. Francisco de Almeida and F-803 HNLMS Tromp passed through Istanbul Strait. According to the publicly available information both ships have arrive at Varna port on 5 July 2015. They are going to take part in Breeze 2015 naval exercise.

Foreign warships do usually pass through the Turkish Straits in day light. The Montreux Convention orders only the submarines of Black Sea nations to pass through the Turkish Straits at day time. The transit passages of foreign warships through Turkish Straits must start in day time. The Convention does not openly regulates the ending of the transit passage of foreign warships. Never the less I must say that the timing of these warships was particular peculiar.

Both NRP D. Francisco de Almeida and F-803 HNLMS Tromp are actuality very beautiful Dutch ships (though the former is now under Portuguese flag) which do not need to hide themselves in the darkness of the night.

The word photography means writing with light. And as we all know the single largest and the most important source of light on earth is our sun. Thus photography is more fun when the sun is up. And the results are far more better.

But as you can see from the results day or night the ship spotters in Istanbul are ready to document the foreign warships passing through our beautiful city.

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