Shortly after dawn the alarm breaks the silence on board HNLMS De Ruyter as the crew of the flagship prepare to head out to sea. After months of planning, a week in port and some final preparations during the pre-sail conference, everyone is focused and excited about what is going to happen in the coming days.
On Saturday morning, 2 November 2013, the ships participating in exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013 left the port of Gdynia, Poland to start the main phase of the Maritime Live Exercise.
“This is something we’ve been preparing ourselves for and finally we can put the plans into reality,” said Task Group Commander, Capt. Mariusz Koscielski (Polish Navy). “The exercise staff is ready for the job, the ships left port as scheduled, so the mission for us now is to prove we can work as one, cooperate to achieve common goals and provide NATO with a cohesive force at sea,” he added.
The maritime assets will operate in the Gulf of Gdansk and adjacent waters for the next seven days – ensuring the safety of navigation and securing the strategic lines of communication especially the port approaches. Of paramount importance is the protection of Allied military and commercial shipping against submarine or air attacks. The Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 will be responsible for neutralizing sea mines and other dangerous objects that could present a threat to maritime traffic. The task group will additionally practice multinational procedures such as formation maneuvering, communications and search and rescue operations at sea.
HNLMS De Ruyter is a Dutch air defence, command and control frigate appointed to be the flagship of the maritime component of exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013. Twenty-five officers and petty officers from Italy, Latvia and Poland are embarked on board to serve as the Task Group Commanders staff responsible for designating units to proper tasks, covering and coordinating all aspects of the exercise and providing subordinate units assistance as needed.
The force is comprised of the Polish submarine ORP ‘Sokol’, Italian destroyer ITS Caio Duilio, Polish frigate ORP Kosciuszko and SNMCMG1 command ship ORP Czernicki joined by seven minehunters: BNS Narcis (Belgium), ENS Admiral Cowan (Estonia), FGS Dillingen (Germany), HNLMS Makkum (Netherlands) and HNOMS Rauma (Norway), HMS Ledbury (Great Britain) and ORP Czajka (Polish). The maneuvers will also involve naval aviation with Polish navy Mi-14PL and SH-2G helicopters and Portuguese P-3C Orion patrol aircraft.
Exercise Steadfast Jazz is the largest NATO exercise since 2006, and is one of a series of exercises designed to maintain connected and interoperable forces at a high state of readiness. These events allow NATO to continue to develop and hone capabilities, employ new technology and test new tactics.
Press Release, November 5, 2013; Image: NATO ACO