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Latvian Naval Forces

The Navy Fleet of the National Armed Forces of the Republic of Latvia (LR) consists of the Mine Squadron, the Patrol Squadron, the Coast Guard Service, the Maritime Surveillance and Communications Service and the Baltic Mine Action Workshop. The Navy ensures the protection of the territorial sea and inland waters (except rivers and lakes) of the state, performs coast guard, controls the territorial sea and inland waters of the state (except rivers and lakes), as well as the exclusive economic zone, ensures combat and mobilization readiness, coordinates and perform search and rescue work at sea, eliminate the consequences of accidents at sea and pollution with oil products, as well as participate in ecological monitoring, search for and destroy explosive objects at sea.

The first units of the Naval Forces (NF) were established in 1991. In 1994 the armed forces included 630 in the navy. The armed forces were poorly equipped. The navy had about six coast guard vessels, three patrol craft, two minesweepers, one special-purpose vessel, and one tugboat. Naval Forces have been continuously developed and enhanced and now can successfully perform all the tasks entrusted to them. Naval Forces consist of the War Ship Flotilla (WSF), Coast Guard Ship Flotilla (CGSF), Coast Guard Battalion (CGB) and Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (SRCS).

One of the key development priorities for the Naval Forces is to develop the surveillance system. Its purpose is to ensure the defence of the national sea border and control of the exclusive economical zone. Other priorities include the extension of the Naval Forces’ participation in the Baltic Naval Squadron BALTRON and development of the infrastructure with the main emphasis on the building of the docks in Riga.

Mission of the Naval Forces is to:

  • defend the national sea and inland waters;
  • monitor and survey the national exclusive economical zones, territorial and inland waters (except rivers and lakes);
  • provide the combat and mobilisation readiness of units;
  • lead and perform the search and rescue operations at sea, ecological monitoring and catastrophe clearance;
  • search for explosives at sea and dispose them.

According to the Republic of Latvia Law on the National Armed Forces, one of the most important tasks of the Naval Forces is to search the sea for explosive objects and to destroy them. Each year, a certain number of the Naval Forces ships take part in mine counter training to improve their mine clearance capabilities, as well as conduct actual mine counter measures, such as Open Spirit, Amber Sea and Mcoplat in the Baltic Sea. Usually mine countermeasures (MCM) ships from neighbouring countries Lithuania and Estonia, as well as Naval Forces units from other countries, take part in such exercises and operations.

Roughly speaking, the depths of the Baltic Sea hide about 80,000 explosive ordnance remains from World War I and World War II. Since the establishment of the Naval Forces in 1992, 770 square miles of the Baltic Sea, namely the Gulf of Riga, Irbe Strait and surrounding areas, have been cleared of explosive objects. In total, 477 objects - ground mines, moored mines, depth charges, torpedoes and bombs - have been found and destroyed, of which 339 were in the Gulf of Riga and 133 in the Irbe Strait.

To improve mine countermeasures capabilities, the Naval Forces purchased four Imanta Class mine hunters from the Netherlands, namely M04 Imanta, M05 Viesturs, M06 Talivaldis and M07 Visvaldis.

Other important Naval Forces tasks include coast guard operations, marine ecological monitoring, collection of oil product samples, search and rescue operations and coordination, and the elimination of the consequences of accidents, oil spills and other incidents at sea. One dramatic example of such incidents is that of the ship Golden Sky (under the Cypriot flag), which went aground in January 2007 carrying 45 tons of diesel fuel and 446 tons of fuel oil. A small contamination was localised, thus preventing possible environmental pollution. Naval Forces personnel were engaged in this operation and in salvage works from 15 January to 8 April 2007.

Along with these tasks, the Naval Forces represent the Republic of Latvia abroad by taking part in various festivals, celebrations and events, such as Kiel Week (Germany), the Battle of Trafalgar 200th anniversary events (Great Britain), and participating in various other celebrations abroad.

The JS Mine Squadron was established on 1 July 2004. The JSF Minesweeper Squadron was created as a new unit and therefore does not inherit any succession to the unit. On July 1, 2004, the staff and supply ship A-53 VIRSAITIS, mine trawlers M-01 VIESTURS and M-02 IMANTA, mine finder M-03 NAMEJS and the Diver's Team were included in the Minesweeper Squadron. In 2007, two MCM ships were purchased from the Netherlands. The mine hunter M03 Namejs first went on an operational mission as part of Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) and became the first Latvian naval ship in history to cross the Arctic Circle. Naval Forces ships have also taken part in other exercises, such as: Open Spirit, Cold Response, Route Survey, Bold Mercy and Balex Delta.

As of March 2007, JS MKE vessels have been supplemented by IMANTAS (ALKMAAR) class vessels M-04 IMANTA (flag of JS Warships raised on March 7, 2007), M-05 VIESTURS (flags of JS Warships raised on March 7, 2007). September 5), M-06 TALIVALDIS (flag of JS Warships raised on April 4, 2008), M-07 VISVALDIS (flags of JS Warships raised on October 24, 2008), and M-08 RUSINŠ (JS Kara flags raised on 13 July 2011).

By 2021 the Minesweeper Squadron had at its disposal the headquarters and supply ship A-53 “Virsaitis” and five “Imantas” class mine detectors M-04 “Imanta”, M-05 “Viesturs”, M-06 “Talivaldis”, M-07 ”Visvaldis and M-08 "Rush". In 2020, BALTRON operated the headquarters and supply ship A-90 "Hero".

One of the most important events in the co-operation of the Baltic States is the establishment of the joint Estonian-Latvian-Lithuanian ship unit BALTRON in 1998, the first commander of which was the Commander of the Latvian Navy, Captain Ilmars Lešinskis. Since 2014, only the Latvian Navy and the Lithuanian Navy are participating in the BALTRON project. A new representative from each Member State is appointed each year as BALTRON Commander. The BALTRON unit also includes flotilla minesweepers or supply vessels on a rotating basis, in accordance with a specially prepared plan for the participation of ships in the BALTRON unit.

In 2007 the Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (under the command of the Naval Forces Coast Guard Service) received 205 emergency calls, of which 30 were related to search and rescue at sea. The Naval Forces rescued 48 people, 4 of whom were found dead and 4 others were not found at all. In two emergency cases, the Centre provided medical advice and consultation for ships at sea with sick or injured crew members onboard.

The main tasks of the Sea Surveillance and Communications Service (SSCS), which is located in Ventspils, are to provide continuous radar/radio-technical and visual surveillance (in cooperation with naval ships when it is necessary) for the purpose of acquiring full information on ship movements and identities within Latvian territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), to store oil collection equipment and maintain it in working condition, and to take part in the elimination of oil pollution at sea. In 2007, SSCS observed and identified 28,733 sea targets.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2021 18:20:05 ZULU