This month NATO is holding the biggest anti-submarine warfare training exercise in its history. Ten NATO nations will provide twenty-two ships and ten maritime patrol aircraft in Nobel Marlin 05. The exercise is centered in the Ionian Sea, off Sicily. Forces from Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the US are participating.
Of the 22 ships, six will be submarines: one French, one German, one Greek, one Spanish, and two Turkish. The surface ships will be drawn from Standing NATO Response Force Maritime Group TWO. Also participating will be a French frigate and surface ships from the Italian Maritime Force (ITMARFOR).
Noble Marlin 05 will also test the new Response Force Group concept. In January, in recognition for the need to mirror the US Navys creation of new forward-based and rapid-response naval task groups, NATO sea forces were reorganized with the creation of Standing NATO RFM Groups ONE and TWO. Each group is augmented by minesweepers and minehunters from Standing NRF MCM Group ONE (SNMCMG-1) and TWO (SNMCMG-2). One Response Force Maritime Group and one SNMCMG are to be always ready to be deployed. An RFMG is comprised of between six and ten destroyers and frigates, a tanker, and about seven minehunters and minesweepers, all led by a command ship.
Noble Marlin 05 is to practice coordinated anti-submarine, anti-surface, coastal surveillance operations, and submarine capabilities. In addition, a first will be a test of submarine capabilities in defending against terrorism in a coastal environment. Maritime Patrol Aircraft from Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, and the US will stage from NAS Sigonella, Sicily, augmented by Italian shore-based ASW helicopters from Fontanarossa, Sicily. Approximately 65 air missions are planned.
In explaining the NATO naval force reorganization last summer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers said he expects the Rapid Response concept to develop over time as missions change. NATOs ability to respond has to be reorganized for current needs, lest it atrophy. Examples of new demands upon NATO include training of Afghani and Iraqi security forces, and limited peace-keeping roles. Also a possibility for a revitalized NATO is enforcing sanctions against nations with rogue nuclear weapons programs.
Noble Marlin 05 is being commanded by Commander, Submarines, Allied Naval Forces, and Commander, Maritime Air, Naples, Italy. K.B. Sherman