Text by Anders Fjellestad • Photo by Jakob Østheim
On Monday 13 January, the Norwegian frigate HNoMS "Otto Sverdrup" set sail and left Bergen, launching its 7-month mission as flagship for NATO's standing naval fleet SNMG1. Until August, the frigate will sail in the waters of Northern Europe. Aboard are the Norwegian force commander Yngve Skoglund and his staff.
Norway took command of the force in December 2019 and after a few weeks of preparations, the mission started last month. After a short stop in Norway's capital Oslo, "Otto Sverdrup" sailed southwards to the Skagerrak, the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea.
"It feels great to be up and running", says Commodore Skoglund, commander of SNMG1.
From aboard the frigate, Skoglund and his staff may have command of the naval fleet of four to six destroyers and frigates. The staff has NATO personnel from six countries.
"We sail to show our presence in the waters of Northern Europe. Our mission is to demonstrate that we master these waters, and that we will not accept that others dominate this area. We all have equal rights here", he adds.
Port visits and exercise
During its mission, the fleet will constantly train its personnel and equipment, exercise with other allied vessels and conduct regular port visits in the region.
"Port visits is an important part of our mission. It shows people that we are present in the region, and that has both a deterring and reassuring effect", the Commander points out.
This is Skoglund's ninth year working for NATO, and he says serving the Alliance is both exciting and rewarding. He says NATO is important for Norway, and that the Royal Norwegian Navy participates regularly and actively with naval capacities into the Alliance.
"Norway is part of the strongest defence alliance in the world, based on the principle of collective security for its members. We must be willing to contribute to that security."
SNMG1 is a flexible force that can conduct warfare below the surface, on the surface, and in the air. If necessary, it will be among the first NATO forces to respond in the waters of Northern Europe.
The alliance's presence in North European waters is important for its member countries. Skoglund underlines that the presence is not be seen as a provocation to anyone, including Russia.
"It is natural for us to operate in the areas of our member states, and we sail mostly in international waters. This naval fleet has existed since the 1960s, so it is natural for us to be present and operate in these areas. This is business as usual", Skoglund says.