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Estonia Navy

The Navy is comprised of Naval Headquarters, a Naval Base and the MCM Squadron. Baltic Naval Squadron – BALTRON is subordinate to the Baltic Military Committee, i.e., the commanders of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Defence Forces, and the administrative power is held by the commanders of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian navies. Falling under the jurisdiction of the Naval Base are the Centre of Naval Education and Training and the diving group within the composition of the MCM Squadron. The Navy is responsible for protecting the territorial waters of the Republic of Estonia and its top priority is the development of mine countermeasures.

The Navy is responsible for protecting the territorial waters of the Republic of Estonia. In case of a crisis situation the Navy must be ready to defend sea approaches, harbour areas, sea lines of communication and to co-operate with coalition units. The top priority for the Navy is the development of mine countermeasures capability that is also one of the Navy's peacetime responsibilities: during World War I and II more than 80 000 sea mines were laid in the Baltic Sea. Since 1995 number of mine clearance operations have been carried out in Estonian waters in close co-operation with other navies of the Baltic Sea region in order to find and dispose ordnance and contribute to safe seagoing.

Since 1995 Estonian Navy ships have participated in most of the major international exercises and operations carried out in the Baltic Sea. Even though it was not until 1994 when the Navy was re-established and despite of the fact that it incorporates one of the smallest fleets in the world, the young crews of the Navy ships have demonstrated excellent interoperability during international exercises and have proved to be equal partners with other navies.

On September 27, 1997, the former U.S. Coast Guard 180-foot Sea Going Tender Bittersweet sailed into Tallinn Harbor after a 21-day transatlantic journey that had begun at her former port of call, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The ship's crew consisted of 20 Estonians who had trained for two weeks with the crew of the Bittersweet off the shores of Cape Cod. The crew already had put their skills and training to the test as they encountered a hurricane in the North Atlantic. On 1 October 1997 the crew and ship were treated to a renaming ceremony that was attended by the President of Estonia, Lennart Meri. The ship was renamed Valvas, Estonian for vigilant.

At 1027 tons the Valvas was the largest ship in either the Estonian navy or border guard fleets. Capable of breaking ice up to one meter thick and equipped with a twenty-ton lifting crane. the Valvas was a great match for shore patrol duty in the cold Baltic Sea. The transfer of the ship was accomplished using virtually every US security assistance program available. First, the English speaking members of the crew all had been trained at the International Maritime Of?cer‘s Course (IMOC) through the IMET program. Second, to save the ?scally constrained Estonian government money, the “safe to steam” repairs to the ship and the training case with the U.S. Coast Guard were paid for using Estonia’s FMF grant money. Third, but most importantly, the ship was transferred under legislation authorizinggrant EDA transfers to the Baltics.

The net cost to the government of Estonia was the price ofthe airline tickets to the US and the food, fuel, and provisions for the return trip. The former Bittersweet was built in 1944 at a cost of $937,000 and the ship’s engines were rebuilt in 1988 (they had 90 percent of their expected life remaining at the time of the transfer), along withupgrades to navigation and communication systems. Assigning a current value to the ship would be difficult, but it is fair to say that Estonia received a bargain.

Most of the Estonian Navy officers have been trained in European or US naval academies. In 2003 Estonian Navy established its own Centre of Naval Education and Training (CNET) to train petty officers. Each Baltic state shares its limited training resources with the others, for instance Estonia provides communications training in Baltic Naval Communications School in Tallinn and Latvia hosts common Baltic Naval Diving Training Centre in Liepaja.

In 1998 Baltic Naval Squadron - BALTRON was inaugurated. The Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON) is a Gerrnan—led initiative to see the formation of a naval squadron composed of assets from the naview of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. One of the primary missions envisioned for this squadron is mine hunting and clearing. In line with this concept, Germany donated two mine sweepers to Estonia in September 1997. Support to the project goes to each of the nation's navies, rather than to a joint entity.

The main responsibility of BALTRON is to improve the co-operation between the Baltic States in the areas of naval defence and security. Constant readiness to contribute units to NATO-led operations is assured through BALTRON. Each Baltic state appoints one or two ships to BALTRON for certain period and staff members for one year. Service in BALTRON provides both, the crews and staff officers, with an excellent opportunity to serve in international environment and acquire valuable experience in mine countermeasures. Estonia provides BALTRON with on-shore facilities for the staff.

From May 2005 to March 2006 ENS Admiral Pitka was assigned as the Command and Support Ship of Standing NATO Response Force Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) which is part of the NRF maritime capability. ENS Admiral Pitka was the first vessel from the Baltic navies to be part of the force. SNMCMG1 is also one of the main partners of Estonian Navy in NATO.

Under the Estonian Long Term Defence Development Plan 2009–2018, approved by the Government of the Republic of Estonia on 22 January 2009, the Navy will continue to develop mine clearance capabilities that are necessary for participating in international operations and for guaranteeing host nation support. As a new development program, new multirole high-speed patrol vessels will be procured for the Navy during the planning period. The purpose of the latter will be to enhance the control of Estonian territorial waters and to improve maritime surveillance. The Navy’s command and control capability will also be improved.

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Page last modified: 23-11-2012 15:23:18 ZULU