NATO SNMCMG-2 In Istanbul


The ships of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 in one photo. From left to right: A-579 TCG Cezayirli Gazi Hasan Paşa, M-33 ESPS Tambre (inside), 62 BGS Shkval, M-261 TCG Edremit.

Turkish led NATO mine warfare task force Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 arrived in Istanbul for a port visit on 5th February 2016. The last time when the SNMCMG-2 visit the town was in July 2014.

The task force spend the previous week in Marmara Sea practising mine sweeping and hunting operations. Duration of  the port visit in Istanbul was not disclosed. But presumably the task force will leave Istanbul on 8th February or on 9th February latest and will sail to the Black Sea.

According to the previously announced schedule the task force will visit Georgian port Batumi and at the end of the month will take part in the Bulgarian led mine warfare exercise Poseidon. Currently the task force is made up with these ship:

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

The Romanian MoD announced that their mine sweeper 30 ROS Sub Lieutenant Alexandru Axente will join the task force. Since this mine sweeper is not present in Istanbul I believe she will participate when the task force is in the Black Sea.

The Spanish mine hunter is the only non Black Sea nation warship of the task force. Her presence in the Black Sea is subject to the rules of Montreux Convention. The convention limits the duration of stay of non Black Sea nation warships to 21 days.


M-261 TCG Edremit


62 BGS Shkval


Turkish Navy To Take The Helm Of SNMCMG-2


TCG Barboros, will be the flag ship of SNMCMG-2 for the next couple of months.

Turkish Navy will take the command of NATO Standing Maritime Mine Counter Measures Group-2 on 2 July 2015.

The hand over ceremony will be held in Erdek Naval base, the home port of Turkish mine warfare ships.

The MEKO 200 class frigate F-244 TCG Barbaros will be the flag ship of the Captain Ramazan Kesgin. The task force will consists of the Spanish mine hunter M-36 ESPS Tajo and Turkish mine hunter M-262 TCG Enez.

TCG Erdek Participates In Spanish Minex


M-263 TCG Erdek.

The Engin class mine hunter of Turkish Navy, M-263 TCG Erdek is taking part in exercise Spanish Minex. Organised by Spanish Navy the exercise has started on today and will end on 22 September.

TCG Erdek is currently assigned to the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group TWO (SNMCMG2).

These are advanced exercises taking place off the coast of Alicante and Cartagena, and whose main novelty with respect to previous years that are focused on response operations in crisis situations, in which time plays a crucial role.

This was stated at a press conference the captain and commander of the force navy Contraminas measures, Jaime Golmayo, leading the exercise, with the participation of NATO.

This exercise has a previous phase, which is currently underway, and is placed on the coast from Cabo de Palos to Torrevieja, around 65 artifacts that simulate the mines, and to be completely safe, with no explosive charge and harmless to the environment and marine life.

From 11 to 13 September will conduct a training phase and integration of forces engaged, and from 14 to 19 will be the tactical phase, in which all means will be used to search, locate, classify, identify and simulate neutralization of artifacts.

Among the exercises that will be conducted, one Golmayo highlighted neutralization drifting mines, more complex than in the case of mines at fixed points.

All operations are carried out in a fictional scenario in which a crisis occurs a country ruled by a dictatorship and democratic country.

Finally, on 21 and 22 September collecting all the artifacts that have been left in the area will be made, and will be used to clean the seabed of the used area.

In total will participate in exercises over 500 military Spain, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, Belgium, Italy and the UK.

This is the list of the participating ships:

Number Name Nation Type
M-31 Segura Spain Mine hunter
M-33 Tambre Spain Mine hunter
M-34 Turia Spain Mine hunter
M-35 Duero Spain Mine hunter
M-36 Tajo Spain Mine hunter
S-73 Mistral Spain Submarine
A-52 Las Palmas Spain Research ship
P-78 Cazadora Spain Corvette
P-81 Toralla Spain Patrol boat
P-82 Formentor Spain Patrol boat
M-108 Grimsby UK Mine hunter
M-263 Erdek Turkey Mine hunter
M-1069 Homburg Germany Mine hunter
M-62 Evropi Greece Mine hunter
A-960 Godetia Belgium Mine hunter
F-583 Aviere Italy Frigate
M-647 Croix Du Sud France Mine hunter
M-646 Orion France Mine hunter
M-652 Céphee France Mine hunter
M-641 Eridan France Mine hunter
A-608 Var France Tanker

SNMG-2 Passed Through Turkish Straits

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto passing through the Bosphorus.

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto passing through the Bosphorus.

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FFH-333 HMCS Toronto.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon passing through the Bosphorus.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon on Bosphorus.

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Spanish frigate F-102 ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon (left) and Canadian frigate FHH-333 HMCS Toronto (right) heading to the Black Sea .

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG-2) Task Unit 02 entered the Black Sea on 6 September 2014.

According to NATO the SNMG-2 is made up from the following ships: USS Leyte Gulf, TCG Kemalreis, FGS Nidersachsen, HMCS Toronto and ESPS Almirante Juan De Borbon. Apparently this Maritime Group is sub divided into two task units as USS Leyte Gulf, TCG Kemalreis and FGS Niedersachen are in USA, while the other two are in the Black Sea.

This is the SNMG-2 press release on Task Unit 02:

Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO Task Unit 02 (SNMG2 TU.02), part of NATO’s four Standing Maritime Forces, entered the Black Sea today to participate in naval exercises with partners and to enhance NATO’s solidarity and readiness in the region.

Task Unit 02 presently consists of the Canadian frigate HMCS TORONTO and the Spanish frigate ESPS ALMIRANTE JUAN DE BORBON. They remain under the overall command of COM SNMG2 Rear Admiral Brad Williamson (USA N).

“HMCS TORONTO’s deployment in the Black Sea is an excellent opportunity for ship’s officers and crew to work closely with both Allied and partner naval forces,” said Commander Jason Armstrong, commanding officer of HMCS TORONTO. “The exercise, as well as other operations we undertake in the Black Sea, builds upon Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO’s deployment in July, as participant naval forces continue to demonstrate Allied commitment to collective defence and interoperability.

And this is the SNMG-2 press release on Task Unit 01:

Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO (SNMG2) arrived Tuesday in Norfolk, Va. for a scheduled port visit in conjunction with Amphibious Readiness Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercises (ARGMEU EX). ARGMEU EX are multi-warfare amphibious exercises with the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) Amphibious Readiness Group and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. SNMG2 has already completed Task Group Exercises and Fleet Exercises with assets from the U.S. and Canadian navies. ARG-MEU EX is SNMG2’s first opportunity to train with the U.S. Marine Corps.

This port visit and ARGMEU EX are part of a series of training exercises in which SNMG2 will participate during its deployment to the Western Atlantic. This is the first time in several years that a NATO task force has conducted transatlantic operations in North America. ARG MEU EX will provide valuable experience through integrated task group training, with a focus on amphibious warfare.

SNMG2 ships currently deployed to North America include the U.S. flagship, USS LEYTE GULF (CG 55), the German ship FGS NIEDERSACHSEN (F 208), and the Turkish ship TCG KEMALREIS (F 247). KEMALREIS is the first Turkish warship to visit the U.S. in 15 years, and this is the first trip to the U.S. for the majority of their crew.

“I’m extremely honoured to be the first Turkish ship to visit the United States in quite some time. I look forward to fostering relationships and training with our U.S. counterparts and I’m happy for many of our Sailors to make their first trip to the United States during this deployment,” said Cmdr. Fatih Guresci, Kemalreis Commanding Officer.

I must confess I have failed to understand the logic behind the decision to split up, SNMG-2 in two and deploying them an ocean apart.

Photos Of SPS Blas De Lezo And TCG Salihreis


The flagship of the SNMG-2, Spanish frigate F-103 SPS Blas De Lezo in İstanbul.


The hanger of the SPS Blas De Lezo, seen from her landing pad.


The mast of the SPS Blas De Lezo.


One of the four SPY-1D radar arrays of the SPS Blas De Lezo.


The detailed view of one of the four SPY-1D radar arrays of the SPS Blas De Lezo.


The starboard side of the superstructure of SPS Blas De Lezo.


SPS Blas De Lezo, docked in İstanbul.


SPS Blas De Lezo, docked in İstanbul.


TCG Salihreis with her new Smart-S Mk2 3D radar.


TCG Salihreis docked in İstanbul.


TCG Salihreis docked in İstanbul.


The starboard side of TCG Salihreis.


The detail view of the Smart-S Mk2 3D radar on board of TCG Salihreis.

SNMG-2 Press Conference On Board SPS Blas De Lezo

From left to right: Commander Levent Bingöl , Rear Admiral Eugenio Diaz Del Rio, Commander Fernando Alvarez Blanco

On 24 July 2013 late afternoon NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 (SNMG-2) arrived in Istanbul.

The group was in the Black Sea since 5 July and visited Bulgaria, and Ukraine and conducted training with Bulgarian and Romanian naval units.

Currently, SNMG-2 consists of the Spanish frigate F-103 SPS Blas De Lezo and Turkish frigate F-246 TCG Salihreis

I was invited to the press conference on board of SPS Blas De Lezo on 25 July 2013. It was my third visit of a Spanish warship but my first press conference so it was quite an interesting event.

Rear Admiral Eugenio Diaz Del Rio is the current commander of the Maritime Group 2, for a period of a year starting June 15th 2013.
He, with the commander of the SPS Blas De Lezo Commander Fernando Alvarez Blanco and the commander of TCG Salihreis Commander Levent Bingöl answered the question of the press.

Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio explained that there will two different stages during his command. In the first stage SNMG-2 will remain mainly in the Mediterranean and in the Black Sea and will support NATO’s Operation Active Endevour and take part in naval exercises Doğu Akdeniz organized by Turkish Navy, Briliant Mariner/Mare Aperto by Italy or Naias by Greece.

In the second stage in 2014 will relived SNMG-1 in the Gulf of Aden and will take the responsibly of the NATO’s anti-piracy operation Ocean Shield for the first 6 months.

He also told that the current composition of SNMG is going to change in late August as more warships will join the group.

Upon my question how he would elaborate this the Black Sea cruise of the SNMG-2 he told that being in the Black sea was interesting as a member of the Spanish Navy he did not had many opportunities to be there. The training of SNMG-2 with the Bulgarian and Romanian naval units was in his opinion very good and helped these NATO navies in gaining the experiences other older NATO navies already have.

Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio compared this force to the fire fighters and said “We must always be ready for any kind of situation emerging in our area. We do not have luxury of saying we need 24 hours to be ready”

He also praised the support of Turkish Navy. SNMG-2 was refueled by Turkish oiler 3 times when it was in the Black Sea. Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio informed that during his tour as Staff Operations Officer at NATO’S Standing Naval Force in the Mediterranean (STANAVFORMED) in 2000 he was stationed on board of a Turkish ship and had a very good working relations with Turkish Navy.

The admiral answered my question whether a plan at NATO level or at national level for Spain existed to position AEGIS platforms such as the frigate Blas De Lezo on the Black Sea, to support NATO initiative to provide a BMD for Europe by saying that NATO was to provide command and control for the BMD system components and every participating nation was going to provide their equipment accordingly.

Upon a question how it feels to have an admiral and his staff on board the commander of the SPS Blas De Lezo Commander Fernando Alvarez Blanco said that Real Admiral Diaz Del Rio, was his boss in their previous tenure and they have been working together for a long time.

Commander Blanco also told that Turkish delegations have visited the frigate and they have been extensively briefed about the working of the AEGIS system. He also told us that the AEGIS system was working well in coastal/littoral Sea such as the Mediterranean or the Black Sea especially if you have a previous knowledge of the area and the expected threads.

SNMG-2 In Bosphorus


Turkish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-246 TCG Salihreis on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Turkish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-246 TCG Salihreis on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Spanish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-103 Blas De Lezo on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Spanish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-103 Blas De Lezo on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Spanish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-103 Blas De Lezo on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.


Spanish contribution to NATO’s SNMG-2, F-103 Blas De Lezo on her way to Bulgaria. Photo: Kerim Bozkurt. Used with permission.

TCG Alanya Takes Part In Spanish Minex-13

M-266 TCG Amasra. She is identical to TCG Alanya taking part in Minex '13 in Spain.

M-266 TCG Amasra. She is identical to TCG Alanya taking part in Minex ’13 in Spain.

A large mine warfare exercise organised by Spanish Navy has started off the coast of Cartagena and Alicante.

The ‘Spanish Minex-13’ is an advanced exercise Naval War Mine Action organized annually by the Spanish Armada in order to implement common procedures for defense against the threat of naval mines.

Among the participants to this exercise are NATO’s SNMCMG-2 and EU’s Euromarfor, along with many units from Spanish Armada.

The exercise will last till 26th April 2013. Turkish Aydın class mine hunter TCG Alanya is taking part in this exercise as a member of SNMCMG-2.

The exercise is led by the Commander of the Force Mine Action, Captain Juan Jose Fernandez Garcia, who will command the more than 500 soldiers of the Spanish Armada and France, Turkey and United Kingdom.

The mines used in the ‘Spanish Minex-13’ are simulated submarine artifacts completely harmless and safe for the environment, which will be collected at the end of exercise. As usual in this type of maneuver, it will take the opportunity to make a clean seabed area exercises.

This is the list of participating naval units to this exercise. More info is always welcomed.

S-71 SPS Galerna Submarine Spain
P-77 SPS Infanta Cristina Frigate Spain
P-81 SPS Torella Patrol craft Spain
P-82 SPS Formentor Patrol craft Spain
M-31 SPS Segura Mine hunter Spain
M-32 SPS Sella Mine hunter Spain
M-35 SPS Duero Mine hunter Spain
M-36 SPS Tajo Mine hunter Spain
A-101M-31 SPS Mar Caribe Logistic support ship Spain
M-653 FS Capricorne Mine hunter France
M-31 HMS Cattistock Mine hunter UK
M-265 TCG Alanya Mine hunter Turkey

Spanish Port For US Navy’s BMD Ships

Spain agreed to host the ships US Navy is deploying to Mediterranean for NATO’s missile defense system.

Today the [NATO] security partnership takes a major step in the right direction,” Panetta told reports at the briefing.
“With four Aegis ships at Rota,” he added, “the alliance is significantly boosting combined naval capabilities in the Mediterranean and enhancing our ability to ensure the security of this vital region.”
The relocation of assets is part of an ongoing U.S. effort to better position forces and defensive capabilities in coordination with European allies and partners, the secretary added.
In 2009, President Barack Obama announced that the United States would adopt a new approach to ballistic missile defense in Europe called the European Phased Adaptive Approach. The architecture would be more comprehensive than a previous program, Obama said in a statement at the time, and would deploy proven, cost-effective capabilities and ultimately protect the United States and its NATO allies against short-, medium- and intermediate-range missile threats.
The program is being implemented in four phases, beginning this year and ending in 2020. So far, Romania, Poland, Turkey and now Spain have agreed to participate by hosting land-based radars or missile sites or porting Aegis ballistic-missile-defense-capable ships carrying interceptor missiles.
“These ships will support NATO’s critical efforts to build an effective missile defense alongside important agreements that were recently concluded with Romania, Poland and Turkey,” Panetta said.
Spain’s decision represents a critical step in implementing the European phased-adaptive approach, as the alliance’s leaders agreed to at the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, he added.
Beyond missile defense, the secretary said, the Aegis destroyers will perform other missions, including participating in standing NATO maritime groups and joining in naval exercises, port visits and maritime security cooperation activities.

The other candidate host nation was Italy. I guess Rota’s legacy as a US navy forward base during the Cold War, and Spain’s own Aegis equipped ships with an option to be upgraded  to engage in BM defence was among the factors favoring this city’s selection.

Needles to say Greece or Turkey, much closer to the ultimate patrol areas for the BMD ships were not considered as candidates because they are considered unreliable in US views.  My comment from last years post about the topic turned to be correct.

But I do not expect any US warship to be home ported in Turkey as the political climate is not suitable yet. The politics of the previous US government alienated Turkey and the recent administration has not done enough to reverse the trend. The neocons in USA feel angry against Turkey as they think Turkey did not gave enough support for their war against global terrorism. Therefore it would be very difficult for both governments to sell the idea of permanent existence of US warships in Turkish ports to their nations.


On Board Of SPS Juan Carlos 1

Today I was on board of the Spanish amphibious ship Juan Carlos 1 for a press conference and a guided tour of the ship. The attendance to the conference was higher than I have expected.

The press conference started with the speaking of the commanding officer  Captain Christopher Gonzalez-Aller Lacalle. He talked in general terms about the ship and its role in the Spanish Navy. He stated that Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest ship ever operated by the Spanish Navy in history. On a question why the ship was here in Istanbul, he answered that the ship was still in the warranty period of Navantia and they were on a endurance trip to determine how the ship operated away from their logistical base. This 45 day endurance trip will end soon when the ship returns to Spain. She will be declared operative in November 2011.

How to dock if you have no rudders.

Later Lt. Commander Calvo made a small briefing about the capabilities of the ship. I have asked about the turning radius of the ship and its stopping distance. As the ship does have two pods with pulling and pushing propellers instead of conventional propellers and rudders she can turn basically on the spot. And if an crash stop order is given when the ship is cruising on standard 15 knots she can come to full stop in less then 2 time the ship length. That means the 26.000 ton ship can decelerate from 27 km/h to 0 km/h in less than 462 meters. I think that this is impressive.

As there are no propeller shafts and ruder in traditional sense the main machinery consisting of one gas turbine and two diesels are used for producing electricity to run the ship. There are also no reductions gears. The main machinery is capable of producing 36 MW @ 6600 volts.

The number of aircraft, helicopters, main battle tanks and other military vehicles depends on the mission profiles and on the types of the vehicles. In general she has 6 spots on the flight deck for a simultaneous operation of NH-90 size helicopters. This number decreases to 4 if large helicopters such as CH-47 Chinooks are operated.

The helm and controls for the pods and bow thrusters

After the press conference first we taken to the bridge and then to the flight dispatcher. Both are very specious and all the windows which are necessary to see every thing going around creates a greenhouse effects. The black interiors painting does not help either. On the bridge the controls for the pods and bow thrusters were more prominent than the helm. In the era of pods and bow thrusters , the size and the importance of the helm is diminishing.

The CIC is very specious compared to the CIC’s I have seen on various frigates. The CIC is dived in two one half is for maritime component the other half is for amphibious and air operations. There are large office spaces for the staff officers on the same level of the CIC. The direct access the CIC from these office space which makes going back and forth and easy walk.

Inside the CIC

The combat management system SCOMBA was developed by Navantia in house. Obviously were not informed about the sensors and the SCOMBA. But according the internet gossip, it is not without any problems.

When were walking and climbing up/down the stairs I have realized that the gangways and the bulkheads were wide. I do not want to compare my Lowepro Pro-Trekker 300 AW camera backpack to a marine infantryman’s rucksack but I had no difficulty in moving inside the ship with my backpack on my back.

The ship has a citadel for protection against NBC weapons and a sprinkler system for decontamination. One cannot fully close a ship that has so many elevators, doors and access hatches. Therefore I assume that the citadel is limited to the living and main working areas inside the ship.

The hangar / garage spaces appeared to me very large. This may be due to the fact that the ships was not fully loaded for this endurance cruise. The height of the hanger was sufficient for a mechanic to stay on a wing of a Harrier or to work on a helicopter like SH-3D.

The dock can be flooded in 90 minutes and emptied in same duration. The dock can hold 4 LCM’s. The gangway in the middle of the dock makes it easier for the marines to climb to the LCM’s on the second row but makes it impossible for any craft wider than a LCM to operate.

I was told that a demo was made for high ranking Turkish Admirals visiting the ship. In that demo it took only 5 minutes for a army truck to be loaded on a LCM and for the LCM to depart the dock.

Starboard side of the dock with a LCM inside.

When I was younger I would ask questions about the sensors, weapons and such stuff. I have realized as I grow older I am more interested in the habitat of the ship for its crew. When I asked the young engineering officer about the habitability of the ship his eyes glowed. He said that the ship is as comfortable as civilian cruise ships.

The officers berthing is comfortable with two officers sharing a stateroom. 4 to 6 petty officers share a stateroom. The seamen are accommodate in dozens. The officers and petty officers have their own WC in their rooms. The sailors share communal WC’s/baths. The marines stay 18 in a stateroom. In each officers cabin there is a PC for personal use. There are films and music on the shared on board LAN. Besides there is satellite TV, and phones to call home. I have seen vending machines. The sole galley of the ship is located in the middle of the eating area and is easily accessible. The quality of the food was good according to my guide and hey there is alcohol on board if you are not on duty.

The tour ended with a small reception inside the aircraft hangar.

SPS Juan Carlos 1 is the biggest warship I have ever visited yet. After seeing the capability, the amenities and the facilities such a warship provides I know now why amphibious ships are dreadnoughts of our era.

The heavy cargo garage seen from the docks

The entrance of the hangar seen from the aft elevator

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