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Sandy Coast 2020 international mine action exercise resumes at Belgian coast

From August 20 to September 11, 2020, several NATO units, including the Standing NATO Mine Action Group (SNMCMG-1), will once again participate in an international mine action exercise. The international coordination staff is headed by the Admiralty Benelux (ABNL). This is a unique collaboration between the Belgian Navy and the Royal Dutch Navy.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Belgian Tripartite-class minehunter M917 Crocus. (Picture source: Belgian Navy)

SACO 20 as a Binational exercise will primarily focus on MCM tactics, techniques and procedures, including experimental tactics (EXTACS) and VSW/EOD techniques and procedures. The 2020 edition will equally focus on harbour protection (HP) and shore-based VSW MCM. Its main training objectives are:

- To provide basic and intermediate level MCM training (including platform training which will be supported by MCMV operational sea training (MOST)) under challenging MCM environmental conditions.

- To exercise MCM command and control through the ABNL chain of command integrating BE-NL task unit(s)/ task element(s), SNMCMG1 and shore-based VSW and EOD teams.

- To plan and conduct MCM operations to allow access from the sea to the mainland under medium-level asymmetric threat and low-level conventional MCM threat.

- To exercise tactics, techniques and procedures within the MCM warfare area domain iot provide training on team-, unit- and group level.

- To exercise VSW/EOD surveys and searches in very shallow water depth zone in harbours and canals.

- To offer detection (PC) trials opportunities to UUV equipped MCMVS for sensor performance assessment.

Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Sandy Coast 2020 international mine action exercise resumes at the Belgian coast. (Picture source: Belgian Navy)

The Belgian units that will take part in this exercise are three of our mine hunters: M916 Bellis, M917 Crocus and M921 Lobelia. For the “Port Protection” part which takes place in the port of Ostend, Belgian teams specializing in very shallow water operations (VSW) using their REMUS underwater drones will work in collaboration with colleagues from Germany, from France and the Netherlands. The latter are specialized in the detection of explosive devices in shallow water, such as port docks.

About 600 military personnel are involved in the management and execution of these exercises with a total of 16 mine-fighting vessels. In addition, underwater drones will also be deployed, including the "ECA Alister 18".