Mediterranean Sea (March 24, 2012) (Left to right) Guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69), aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Royal Netherlands Navy frigate HNLMS De Ruyter (F 804), German Navy frigate FGS Rheinland-Pfalz (F 209) and Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Charlottetown (FFH 339) transit in formation during a passing exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Randy J. Savarese)
Nisida, Naples 26 March 2012: The Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) met with the USS Enterprise Carrier Strike Group on 24 March 2012 in the Western Mediterranean.
SNMG1 is currently patrolling in support of NATO's operation against terrorism, Operation Active Endeavour.
"Although it is clear that OAE demands considerable attention, as commander of a NATO immediate reaction force, I am always keen to boost overall readiness of the Group and the individual ships and check and further build the interoperability of NATO's navies and forces. This encounter allowed me to do all three in one go”, explained Commodore Ben Bekkering, COMSNMG1. "In an intensive and rewarding day, we managed to train long range and short range surface surveillance, had a chance to participate in the flying programme of the carrier and received fuel from USNS Supply. The RAS (Refuelling At Sea) was a true support to OAE, as it allows us to remain at sea for a prolonged period.”
The Big E, as the USS Enterprise is affectionally known, is on her last deployment. Now over 50 years old and the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier she is also remembered for her role in the famous movie ‘Top Gun'. She has witnessed most if not all crises since the early 1960's and can still deliver an impressive punch. "Once the carrier starts flying, the radar screens very quickly become busy”, says Sergeant Major Eric Brinkman aboard HNMLS De Ruyter, SNMG1's flagship. "We were allowed to control some of the aircraft in an air defence exercise. A rare opportunity and the value was further increased by the presence on De Ruyter of one of the carriers air intercept officers. We could exchange ideas and procedures and got an excellent insight in how a carrier operates.”
SNMG1 currently consists of HNMLS De Ruyter (flagship), ESPS Álvaro de Bazán, HMCS Charlottetown and FGS Rheinland-Pfalz.
OAE was launched in 2001 following the terrorist attacks against the United States. It has since evolved into a comprehensive counter-terrorism operation that is based on the collection and analysis of information of the maritime traffic and on the surveillance conducted by NATO naval and air units. Surveillance by military assets is – at irregular intervals – concentrated into specific areas of the Mediterranean with 'Surge Operations' during which larger scale sweeps are conducted.