The Standing NATO Maritime Groups are a multinational, integrated maritime force made up of vessels from various allied countries. These vessels are permanently available to NATO to perform different tasks ranging from participating in exercises to actually intervening in operational missions. These groups provide NATO with a continuous maritime capability for NATO Response Force (NRF) operations, non-NRF operations and other activities in peacetime and in periods of crisis and conflict. They also help to establish Alliance presence, demonstrate solidarity, conduct routine diplomatic visits to different countries, support transformation and provide a variety of maritime military capabilities to ongoing missions.
SNMG1 and SNMG2 alternate according to the operational needs of the Alliance, therefore helping to maintain optimal flexibility.
SNMG1 is usually employed in the Eastern Atlantic area, but it can deploy anywhere NATO requires. It is made up of vessels from different member countries. Those that routinely contribute to SNMG1 are Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the United States. Other countries have occasionally contributed.
The composition of SNMG1 varies as naval units are provided on a rotational four-to-six month basis. It is composed of between six and ten ships from as many NATO member countries.
Since 9 November 2009, the following ships have been assigned to Operation Ocean Shield:
- NRP Álvares Cabral (flagship, Portugal);
- USS Donald Cook (United States);
- USS Stephen W. Groves (United States);
- ITS Libeccio (Italy);
A Canadian ship – HMCS Fredericton - joined the mission on 22 November.
SNMG2 is usually employed in the Mediterranean area, but it can deploy anywhere NATO requires. It is made up of vessels from different member countries. Those that routinely contribute to SNMG2 are Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Other countries have occasionally contributed. The following ships were assigned to Operation Ocean Shield (August-November 2009):
- HS Navarinon (frigate F461, Greece);
- ITS Libeccio (Italian frigate);
- TCG Gediz (Turkish frigate);
- HMS Cornwall (United Kingdom frigate);
- USS Donald Cook (United States destroyer).
Command and structure
SNMG1 comes under the command of Allied Maritime Component Command Headquarters Northwood, in the United Kingdom, which is one of the three Component Commands of Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum.
Normally, SNMG2 comes under the command of Allied Maritime Component Command (CC-Mar) Naples, which is one of the three Component Commands of Allied Joint Force Command Naples.
However, for Operation Ocean Shield, SNMG2 was put under the Operational Control of Component Command Headquarters Northwood, and under the overall responsibility of Joint Headquarters Lisbon.