European Navies Train for Coastal Warfare

Thirteen European navies exercise in the Baltic Sea, preparing for operations in confined and shallow waters.

In September, the navies of thirteen nations gathered at the port of Turku in Finland for Exercise Northern Coasts 2010, a two week training event meant to “improve the interoperability between participating units and countries with main emphasis on maritime operations in confined and shallow waters,” according to the Finnish military. The event was tailored for “smaller naval units, such as fast patrol boats, corvettes, small frigates and Mine Counter-Measure Vessels,” Warships International Fleet Review reported.

Some fifty ships and 4,000 sailors attended. Finland provided eighteen ships; Sweden ten; and Germany eight. The vessels practiced defense against speedboats, aircraft and submarines and honed convoy-escort skills. For Finland, Northern Coasts was a chance to prepare the minelayer Phojanmaa, pictured, for her 2011 deployment to the Indian Ocean to patrol for Somali pirates with the EU naval force.

With more navies anticipating a new era of coastal warfare, exercises such as “NOCO” should become more commonplace. For all that, the world’s most important navy barely had a presence at all at NOCO 2010. The US Navy sent just a single P-3C patrol plane. In coming decades, the US Navy will purchase as many as a hundred vessels optimized for littoral operations, including at least 55 Littoral Combat Ships and no fewer than 23 Joint High-Speed Vessel catamarans. These ships will require a refined concept of operations and experienced crews if they are to succeed to extending the US Navy’s presence into shallow waters.

There’s always NOCO 2011.

This story first appeared on War is Boring, November 29, 2010.