Royal Navy to command two NATO forces

The Royal Navy are guardians of the Mediterranean after taking charge of two NATO task forces in the Middle Sea.

Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan is now flagship of a group of half a dozen warships on patrol from the Pillars of Hercules to the Black Sea.

The mission of the British, German, Albanian, Turkish and Greek vessels is to deter illegal migration in the Mediterranean, provide assistance in the event of a humanitarian crisis such as an earthquake, and generally remind NATO’s allies and partners in the region of the key role of the alliance.

At the same time HMS Enterprise has just taken charge of a minehunting force patrolling the very same waters, following a 30-minute ceremony aboard Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory in Portsmouth.

She will lead a flotilla of minehunters dealing with the threat of present-day mines and underwater explosive devices, as well as any historic ordnance they come across from the past 100 years.

It’s the first time Enterprise, which only returned from a three-year deployment just before Easter, has been used to direct the operations of minehunters; she proved hugely successful in more than a year on migrant patrol in the central Mediterranean, sinking nearly 120 boats used by smugglers and rescuing over 9,000 people.

It is an immense privilege to take command of the group for the next 12 months

Commander Justin Hains Royal Navy, NATO Mine Counter-measures Group 2 

For her new mission, the survey ship will be home to one of the UK’s most experienced mine warfare experts, Commander Justin Hains, and his staff.

Enterprise will initially be joined by a Turkish minehunter with vessels from Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, and the UK joining Mine Counter-measures Group 2 later in the year.

“It is an immense privilege to take command of the group for the next 12 months,” said Commander Hains, who’s commanded HMS Ledbury as part of a NATO group before as well as taken HMS Atherstone to the Gulf and served two years on exchange with the French Navy.

“NATO is the cornerstone of UK Defence, and I have benefitted from every interaction I have had with other nations throughout my career. With my multinational command staff, I look forward to continue building deeper understanding and cooperation across and beyond the alliance.”

He formally assumed command of the group from Poland’s Commander Aleksander Urbanowicz and his flagship ORP Kontradmiral Xawery Czernicki.

As for HMS Duncan, she received the NATO flag of command, which was ceremonially hauled down aboard FGS Brandenburg, the group’s previous flagship under the German Navy’s Rear Admiral Axel Deertz, and presented to Commodore James Morley RN in Souda Bay, Crete.

From the Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer, Cdre Morley will direct a force of frigates, patrol ships and fast attack craft.

With summer at its height, one of the force’s key tasks will be to clamp down on traffickers exploiting people from Africa and Asia trying to reach Europe by sea, in particular in the Aegean, where the task group will work with the UK Border Force, Greek and Turkish coastguards to deter migrants.