NRF rotation year went in an exemplary manner for the Katanpää class
The Finnish Navy committed Katanpää-class mine countermeasures vessels MHC Katanpää and MHC Purunpää to the Nato Response Force’s Follow on Forces pool for 2022. Participating in the NATO Response Force, NRF, enhances the capability and interoperability of the Finnish Navy’s vessels and troops and its readiness to commit units to naval crisis management missions.
Of the Coastal Fleet’s vessels, mine countermeasures vessel MHC Purunpää stood in readiness from January to the end of June, and after this, mine countermeasures vessel MHC Katanpää picked up for the rest of the year. The previous time the Navy had MHC Purunpää in readiness was the first half of 2020.
Measure of competence
All the forces committed to the NRF pool undergo an evaluation in conformity with the NATO evaluation process. According to the commander of the 4th Mine Countermeasures Squadron, Commander Henri Kummala, for the Navy, NRF readiness represents a measure of competence and demonstrates its ability to carry out its tasks. The political dimension of the matter is that a decision to participate in the force means that the vessels and their personnel have the capability and competence to operate as a part of an international vessel group.
- It is good that you can monitor your own personnel’s competence both within the group and with other NATO partners. And even if your vessel did not necessarily, or as in this case, get deployed on an operation, it means a great deal to the Navy, squadrons and the Coastal Fleet that the capability is measured and the competence recognized.
- The competence of the Katanpää-class and in mine countermeasures in general is high level. We have high readiness. At the same time, we maintain and develop our mine clearing capability and diver activity, Kummala continues.
From the beginning, the mine countermeasures troops have conducted mine hunting largely on the same principles as the international troops. The Katanpää-class vessels and competence are high-quality by global standards. The competence has been recognized; the squadron commander says that partner countries keep expressing requests for joint exercising.
During the NRF rotation, the squadron’s vessels trained at a number of exercise events together with NATO vessel groups and different States’ mine countermeasures vessels across the Baltic Sea area. The exercises and participating in them required a significant effort of the personnel, but they pulled through honourably. Next year, Katanpää is planned to undergo NATO evaluation 2 as a part of Exercise BALTOPS 23.
NRF readiness is maintained as part of continuing to meet readiness obligations in normal conditions
The commander of MHC Purunpää, Lieutenant, Senior Grade Antti-Jussi Käkelä says that NRF readiness has been maintained as part of continuing to meet the readiness obligations in normal conditions. The vessel’s NRF rotation period culminated in the international exercise BALTOPS 22 in which the vessel trained as a part of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1.
- The vessel’s capability is state-of-the art and the personnel is highly competent. Training and exercise activities in normal conditions support participation in international exercises and operating as a part of an international vessel group. Therefore, in the exercise, integration is very seamless and operating compatible in every way. Experiences of international exercises and BALTOPS have shown that Finns need a very short break-in to get ready for full action again, Käkelä emphasizes.
A vessel being in NRF readiness does not mean that the vessel and its crew must be ready to be deployed on an operation as soon as they receive an invitation. Instead, participation always requires a political decision. This is to ensure that during its rotation year, the vessel will also be able to participate in the Navy’s own national obligations. A political decision having been made, the next step is to recruit personnel for the operation. Recruitment needs have, however, been mapped out in advance, and the Navy wishes to recruit primarily Navy reservists and personnel.
- The biggest work is done before the actual rotation period begins. This means that the vessel has been evaluated, and it has thus been ensured that we have both the competence and vessel technical ability to operate as a part of a NATO vessel group, if necessary, Kummala sums up.
As far as the future is concerned, the squadron commander is confident. If Finland becomes a member of the Alliance and the Navy commits troops to the NRF pool, the Katanpää-class will be in high readiness to deploy and have the ability to operate on internationally compatible NATO principles. The vessels have been constructed to be able to operate in all European sea areas.