UK Divers Show Skills in NATO’s Northern Challenge

A team of Royal Navy Clearance Divers have blasted their way through a highly-charged NATO exercise in Iceland – demonstrating their explosive expertise.

The team of 12 bomb disposal operatives from Southern Diving Group joined around 200 Tri-Service colleagues from 14 NATO and Partner for Peace nations to take part in Exercise Northern Challenge in Keflavik.

A two week exercise in its 14th year of operation, it provided 22 teams with a variety of challenges both in land and maritime environments, with each task increasing in difficulty to test the operators and their teams.

The Commanding Officer of Southern Diving Group, Lieutenant Commander Al Nekrews QGM was also chosen as the CO of the Multi-National Explosive Ordnance Disposal Co-ordination Cell for the exercise due to his extensive knowledge of maritime and land bomb disposal operations.

The teams all had to work to the NATO doctrine while ensuring they also kept to their own national Standard Operating Procedures.

One of the main aims of the exercise is to ensure that the operators and their teams focus on retaining the device – or parts of it – for forensic testing. The idea is to target the bomb makers directly – a tactic that proved successful on Op Herrick, resulting in a number of high profile arrests.

Teams have to bag their evidence and bring it to a lab at the headquarters where a Danish forensic expert examines the parts to report back his findings to the main briefing each morning.

Here the teams receive feedback from the previous day’s activities and are then given their tasks for the day – usually with one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

As such all of the Royal Navy’s tasks for the exercise involved the maritime environment with scenarios including a boat rigged up with an IED on board, a limpet mine attached to a coastguard vessel and a suicide diver with explosives attached to his air cylinders.

Image: Royal Navy

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