HMS Mersey joins NATO’s high readiness task force

HMS Mersey joined the tip of the spear of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force for exercises keeping allies razor sharp for maritime security operations.

It is the first time a ship of the Royal Navy's Overseas Patrol Squadron has worked with a NATO task group and the debut saw Mersey train with warships from Portugal and Canada in the North Sea as part of one of alliance’s high readiness forces.

The Offshore Patrol Ship combined with Vasco da Gama-class frigate NRP Corte-Real and Halifax-class frigate HMCS Toronto for long-range communications exercises, tactical manoeuvring drills and flying training with the task group’s helicopters. 

Mersey joined the group, known as Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG1), in the Skaggerak – the doorway from the North Sea into the Baltic – and jointly completed the first week of their operational training programme.

Portugal have recently taken command of SNMG1 – NATO’s task group’s rotate their command on a yearly basis – with Commodore José António Mirones leading from flagship NRP Corte-Real.

HMS Mersey’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon, said: “The Royal Navy has been at the heart of NATO’s maritime training and operations for over 71 years now and so it was a privilege to be able to play our small part in this long-standing partnership by hoisting the NATO flag with pride in HMS Mersey and joining SNMG1 in the North Sea. 

“From Commodore Mirones and his multi-national staff, to the Portuguese and Canadian crews of the NRP Corte-Real and HMCS Toronto, we have been made to feel incredibly welcome and were quickly integrated into the task group’s intensive training package.  

“I am particularly proud of the way that Mersey’s small ship’s company quickly adapted to the challenge of NATO task group operations; although a first for us in the Overseas Patrol Squadron, it is an important skill-set for everyone in today’s Royal Navy as we increasingly exercise and operate with other nations around the world, from the long-standing NATO missions in the Mediterranean – which our sister-ship HMS Trent will support as part of her forward presence operations – to UK Carrier Strike Group deployments across the globe.”

SNMG1, along with SNMG2 – which was led by the Royal Navy in 2017/18 – forms the ‘tip of the spear’ of the maritime element of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.  

As such, it runs a high tempo training cycle among all its ships to ensure that the task group sustains peak readiness levels for operations.  

HMS Mersey’s Operations Officer, Lieutenant Domonic Jacobs, added: “Working with our NATO allies has offered a raft of unique training opportunities including serials such as Officer of the Watch manoeuvres and tactical manoeuvres, which have improved the skills of Mersey’s bridge team and communications and information department. 

“This is the first time I have operated in a task group since completion of my training and it is definitely something that has been enjoyable albeit challenging at times. 

“That has made this an exciting time to be one of Mersey’s duty ops officers, especially the task of co-ordinating Mersey’s contribution by liaising with the multi-national NATO staff in the flagship. Mersey’s contribution and enthusiasm seems to have been well-received by SNMG1 and I very much hope we get the chance to benefit from working with NATO again in the future.”

 

The Royal Navy has been at the heart of NATO’s maritime training and operations for over 71 years now and so it was a privilege to be able to play our small part in this long-standing partnership by hoisting the NATO flag with pride in HMS Mersey and joining SNMG1 in the North Sea.

Lieutenant Commander Will Edwards-Bannon