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Belgian Navy sends its minehunter Crocus to join NATO exercise Steadfast Defender.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by the Belgian MoD on February 20, 2024, the Belgian minehunter Crocus will participate in the large-scale NATO exercise Steadfast Defender during February and March.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Tripartite-class minehunter Crocus. (Picture source: Belgian MoD)

With 90,000 military personnel from 31 NATO member countries and partner nation Sweden, this marks one of NATO’s largest exercises in decades. The Belgian Navy is contributing not just a ship, but also logistical and communication support in Northern Europe.

Steadfast Defender serves as a monumental exercise, the largest of its kind since the Cold War era, demonstrating NATO's readiness to defend any part of its territory. The exercise involves the strategic movement of North American troops across the Atlantic to join forces with European allies, showcasing a unified stance against any potential threats.

Division Admiral Botman of the Belgian Navy emphasized Belgium's ongoing commitment to NATO's military efforts. He highlighted the critical role of the BNS Crocus in the upcoming operations in Northern Europe, addressing the persistent threat posed by naval mines to maritime safety.

The Crocus will operate alongside the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) as part of its mission to the High North. NATO maintains four permanent fleets capable of a wide range of missions, including mine countermeasures, anti-piracy operations, rescue missions, and assisting distressed ships.

Belgian Navy's mine warfare

The Belgian Navy has a long-standing history in mine warfare, reflecting a commitment to developing and enhancing its capabilities in this critical area of naval operations. The establishment of EGUERMIN, the Belgian-Netherlands Naval Mine Warfare School in Ostend, Belgium, in 1960, stands as a testament to this commitment.

EGUERMIN has been pivotal in providing comprehensive training and education in mine warfare to both Belgian and Dutch navy personnel, as well as to officers from NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries.

The school's mission encompasses a broad range of educational objectives, including the technique, tactics, procedures, and doctrine necessary to counter naval mines. Each year, the institution educates over five hundred students, utilizing advanced simulators and practical training at sea to prepare them for operational deployment in mine countermeasures (MCM) procedures​​.

The Belgian Navy's historical engagement in mine warfare can also be traced through its operational use of various classes of mine warfare vessels. Belgium has operated minesweepers, minehunters, and other vessels specifically designed or adapted for naval mine warfare. This includes the significant role of Belgian ships during World War II, where they contributed to Allied efforts, including the evacuation at Dunkirk.

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