Naval Command Netherlands 1
Commandement der Zeemacht in Nederland (CZMNED)
Part I: The Fleet (Sea) | Part II: The Fleet (Air) | Part III: Service Support (Land) | Wartime Organisation
Type-organisation versus Task Organisation
The organisational chart above shows the sea-going part of the Fleet: the Royal Navy's submarines, frigates and mine-countermeasure vessels. Together with the Marine Corps, the Fleet formed the 'business end' of the Royal Navy.
For logistical and administrative purposes the Fleet was subdivided into five type-oriented groups of operational units, the first three of which are displayed above the dotted line in the chart: 4
In peacetime Naval Command Netherlands operated with four task groups, as shown in the chart below the dotted line:
For the sake of clarity the previous section shows only ships and naval formations. However, type-organisations also included logistic and other support elements, largely land-based. The organisational chart below shows the rest of the three groups of operational units that constituted the sea-going part of the Fleet:
Operations and Readiness
The Fleet, or Task Force 429, was unlikely to ever operate as a single force in wartime as its subordinate task groups, including those to be formed on mobilisation (NLTG3/TG 429.6 and MBFLOT2/TG 429.2) were earmarked to operate under NATO commands: Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT) and Allied Command Channel (ACCHAN), or their subcommands; see further under Wartime Organisation.
The ships of the Group of Escort Ships were in principle permanently in service. Kortenaer-class frigates would be taken in for a five-month maintenance period every three years. The other ships of the Group would each spend four months in maintenance every two years. Of the mine countermeasure vessels five out of the eleven operational Dokkum-class minesweepers were kept in reserve as a cost-cutting measure, maintained by the conservation grouping of the Mine Service, with individual vessels periodically rotating in and out of service.13
Commander, Mine Service (Commandant Mijnendienst, CMD) had no operational command over his ships; this was held by Naval Commander Netherlands who would delegate operational command to MCM flotilla commanders. That might include patrol boats but he would retain, at least in peacetime, operational command of the hydrographic ships. The latter surveyed the seafloor, mainly for mine countermeasures operations, anti-submarine warfare operations and wartime convoy routes (sea lines of communication, SLOC).14
The five operational submarines would be in maintenance for six months every two and a half years. The decommissioned submarine S 808 Hr.Ms. Dolfijn, used for training purposes, was deleted from the reserve in February 1985. Submarines were not part of a task group though they could of course operate in support of one. They probably operated individually most of the time. In peacetime the submarines fell under operational control of Naval Commander Netherlands, with operational command held by Commander, Submarine Service. The mission of the Submarine Service was threefold:
NATO Standing Naval Forces
The Royal Navy was a regular participant in NATO's two permanent multinational, integrated naval squadrons: Standing Naval Force Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) and Standing Naval Force Channel (STANAVFORCHAN). These were the Immediate Reaction Forces of Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT) and Commander-in-Chief Channel (CINCHAN) respectively, meant to provide a quick military response to emerging crises as well as providing a permanent display of Allied solidarity, vigilance and military integration (see also NATO Commands, Multinational Forces). The standard contribution of the Royal Navy was one frigate from the Group of Escort Ships to STANAVFORLANT, and two mine countermeasure vessels, one from each Mine Countermeasures Flotilla, to STANAVFORCHAN.16
Part I: The Fleet (Sea) | Part II: The Fleet (Air) | Part III: Service Support (Land) | Wartime Organisation
The Naval Aviation Service
The chart above displays the Fleet's two remaining type-oriented groups of operational units: the Maritime Patrol Aircraft Group (Groep Maritieme Patrouillevliegtuigen, MARPATVLIGRP) and the Helicopter Group (Groep Helikopters, HELIGRP). Together these formed the Naval Aviation Service (Marineluchtvaartdienst, MLD). Since 1977 the MLD was no longer a command level, both groups falling directly under Naval Commander Netherlands as shown.26
Remarkable is the rather serious shortage in dipping sonars for the already modestly sized fleet of onboard helicopters: as noted, since 1984 there were probably only eight sonar-equipped helicopters to support eighteen frigates in ASW operations. To make matters worse, from about 1980 the deployability of the Royal Navy's Lynx helicopters had been suffering from structural maintenance problems. This otherwise excellent helicopter needed more maintenance and repair than expected, and the fact that there were three different types in use did not help. In 1984 deployability was at 40 percent, on average, where 70 percent was the minimum requirement. Measures were taken, but only in 1987 the situation was beginning to improve.27
With the P-3C Orion patrol aircraft the MLD had acquired a very capable and sophisticated ASW and surveillance platform, but in later years maintenance problems would come to light here as well. The causes may have been different, but it appears that, not unlike the Royal Army, the Royal Navy struggled, at least when it came to its aircraft, to meet the maintenance requirements of new high-tech equipment.28
Part I: The Fleet (Sea) | Part II: The Fleet (Air) | Part III: Service Support (Land) 52 | Wartime Organisation
Wartime Organisation 45
As we have seen above, in peacetime the Royal Navy operated with four naval task groups: two escort groups and two mine countermeasures flotillas. On NATO Simple Alert two additional task groups would be formed, one in each category: the Third Escort Group (NLTG3/TG 429.6) and Mine Countermeasures Flotilla 2 (MBFLOT2/TG 429.2). The Squadron (Eskader, EKD) would become the First Escort Group (NLTG1/TG 429.5), whilst the Frigate Squadron (Fregattensquadron, FREGRON) would most likely become the Second Escort Group (NLTG2/TG 429.4). The organisational chart below displays the resulting war organisation of six naval task groups, the commands under which they would operate and their likely configuration. For a wider context, see Royal Navy, Wartime Organisation.46
The six task groups as shown above would not be immediately available: mobilised personnel would need to be integrated, ships would start accelerated working-up programs, and some ships would be in maintenance or repair. Five Dokkum-class minesweepers, possibly also some other smaller vessels, would first need to be taken out of conservation. In the first stage operationally ready ships would probably be reassigned between task groups in order to put at least one escort group (likely NLTG1) and one mine countermeasures group (likely MBFLOT2) out to sea whilst, in second line, the working-up and formation of the other task groups would be taken in hand.
Allied Command Atlantic (ACLANT)
The First and Second Escort Groups (NLTG1 and NLTG2) would operate under ACLANT in the northern and eastern parts of the Atlantic Ocean, with operational command probably delegated to Eastern Atlantic Command (EASTLANT), headquartered in Northwood (UK). Their primary mission would be to protect and keep open the vital sea lines of communication (SLOC) along which supplies and reinforcements from the American continent would be shipped to the Central Front in Europe.47 The prescribed composition of an Atlantic escort group was as follows:
Allied Command Channel (ACCHAN)
The Third Escort Group (NLTG3) and Mine Countermeasures Flotilla 2 (MBFLOT2) would operate in the Channel and the North Sea under ACCHAN. Their primary mission was anti-submarine warfare and anti-mine warfare respectively, in protection of Allied shipping in the area. Again the aim was to enable an uninterrupted flow of supplies and reinforcements to the Central Front. The prescribed composition of the North Sea/Channel escort group, NLTG3, was originally five frigates but, as it was, only four would be available.48 For its anti-submarine warfare role the group would, like NLTG1 and NLTG2, operate with onboard helicopters and have a P-3C Orion 'on task'. CINCHAN's anti-submarine warfare operations would probably concentrate on the approaches to his area of responsibility, in particular the deeper, western Channel approaches, whilst his anti-mine warfare operations would focus on a limited number of important shipping lanes and concentration areas.
Naval Command Netherlands/Admiral Benelux (CZMNED/ABNL) (Benelux Subarea Channel Command, BENECHAN)
Mine Countermeasures Flotillas 1 and 3 (MBFLOT1 and MBFLOT3) would operate under Naval Commander Netherlands/Admiral Benelux. Their mission would be to keep the coastal shipping routes and territorial waters clear of mines, in particular the approaches to the Scheldt (Antwerp), Rijnmond (Rotterdam), IJmond (Amsterdam), Den Helder and Delfzijl. These included the logistic bases for naval operations (the naval base at Den Helder and the Mine Service Station in Vlissingen; also to be mentioned here are the Belgian naval bases at Zeebrugge and Oostende). Moreover, these approaches included the receiving ends of vital transatlantic SLOC: in particular the major harbour areas of Antwerp and Rotterdam.
Keeping the territorial waters clear of mines was a national responsibility, which the Netherlands and Belgium would assume jointly in wartime. Hatted as Admiral Benelux, Naval Commander Netherlands would receive operational command over Belgian naval forces not assigned to SACLANT or CINCHAN. These forces would mainly comprise mine countermeasures vessels, of which the Belgian Navy had twenty-nine; these were mostly coastal and inshore minesweepers, in peacetime organised into four flotillas. The four small but well-armed Wielingen-class frigates of the Belgian Navy would operate under CINCHAN, where they would perhaps be used to beef up NLTG3. It will be noted that Admiral Benelux also held the NATO Benelux Subarea Channel Command (BENECHAN); as such he was a subcommander of CINCHAN. It would appear this construction was devised to facilitate coordination between NATO and national responsibilities.49
A concluding remark on the composition of the task groups as shown in the organisational chart above: it should be noted that, beyond the prescribed composition of the two Atlantic escort groups given above, the exact composition of the six task groups is uncertain. In the chart, ship types have been distributed more or less evenly to achieve balanced capabilities; especially the composition of the mine countermeasure flotillas is merely an assumption. In reality the available ships would be assigned and reassigned as operationally required.
The remaining naval forces of Naval Commander Netherlands/Admiral Benelux would likewise be distributed between his own command and ACLANT and ACCHAN: the submarines, the Maritime Patrol Aircraft Group, the Helicopter Group and the activated Administrative Escorts and investigation service. Their war assignments are described below.
The submarines would on NATO Simple Alert be placed under operational authority of SACLANT, with operational command probably delegated to Submarine Forces Command Eastern Atlantic Area (SUBEASTLANT), headquartered in Northwood (UK). Their war base would be Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland (UK), from where they would deploy to the Atlantic approaches of the Soviet Northern Fleet and Baltic Fleet: the eastern Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. Prior to open hostilities the submarines would localise and report on enemy units. Once war would have broken out they were to prevent the aforementioned fleets from breaking through to the Atlantic Ocean, thus contributing to the protection of the transatlantic SLOC. Further possible missions included laying mines, reconnaissance and landing intelligence agents.
Maritime Patrol Aircraft Group
The wartime mission of the P-3C Orions would comprise surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and Over The Horizon Targeting (OTHT) for Allied surface combatants. Aircraft Squadron 320 would be assigned to ACLANT and mainly operate from RAF Machrihanish (UK). Its operational area would be the eastern Atlantic Ocean; operational command would probably be delegated to Maritime Air Command Eastern Atlantic Area (AIREASTLANT), headquartered in Northwood (UK). Aircraft Squadron 321 would be assigned to ACCHAN and mainly operate from RAF St. Mawgan (UK). Its operational area would be the western Channel approaches; operational command would probably be delegated to Allied Maritime Air Force Channel Command, headquartered in Northwood (UK). A number of Orions would continue to operate from Naval Air Station Valkenburg, probably in support of CZMNED/ABNL/COMBENECHAN. These aircraft, possibly operated by Aircraft Squadron 2, would be placed under operational authority of SACLANT; operational or executive command would probably remain with Commander, Maritime Patrol Aircraft Group.
The helicopters of Aircraft Squadron 860 would operate from the frigates and fast combat support ships of the three escort groups (NLTG1, 2 and 3), primarily for anti-submarine warfare; also for reconnaissance (OTHT) and general utility work (transport, liaison). Aircraft Squadron 7 would be assigned to Admiral Benelux (ABNL) for liaison and search-and-rescue (SAR) tasks along the Dutch and Belgian coast and, we assume, remain available for BBE operations (see Part II, The Fleet (Air), note g.) 50
A number of vessels would be depoyed as 'administrative escorts' under operational command of Naval Commander Netherlands (CZMNED). Their task would be to escort Allied convoys and to secure the territorial and coastal waters and the maritime approaches and harbours. Firstly the three survey ships of the Hydrographic Service and the three Balder-class patrol boats would be deployed in this role, whilst additional forces would be mobilised, equipped and worked-up.51 For this a number of private and government vessels would be requisitioned. These vessels would be armed to be able to counter subversive enemy actions and if necessary enforce the boarding of ships for investigation (see the next section below). Manned by military personnel they would patrol the coastal and territorial waters, but they might also be deployed to the area north of the Netherlands part of the North Sea. For patrol duties along the Netherlands coast the Ministry of Transport and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat) would requisition up to sixteen seagoing fishing vessels for the Royal Navy. These were to counter sea-borne subversive actions and protect fishery.
CZMNED would probably partly act in his capacity as Commander, Benelux Subarea Channel (COMBENECHAN) here, as the survey ships would be allocated to CINCHAN on NATO Simple Alert. <
Investigation Service and Pilotage Service
To secure the Netherlands seaports against enemy infiltration or subversive actions an investigation service (onderzoekingsdienst) would be activated. This service would comprise Royal Navy personnel, including appointed investigation officers, and personnel and vessels of the Pilotage Service (Loodsdienst). Investigation teams would board and investigate suspect ships before or upon entering a harbour. The teams would operate under operational command of the regional Commanders of Maritime Resources (Commandanten Maritieme Middelen, CMM) (see Part III: Service Support (Land)). The pilot vessels would be elevated to the status of warship and would be incorporated in the CMM organisations, Pilotage Service personnel would be incorporated in the defence organisation. Eight pilot vessels would be deployed in this role, as follows: one in Delfzijl and one in Den Helder (CMM Den Helder); one in Amsterdam and IJmuiden (CMM Amsterdam); three in Rotterdam and Hoek van Holland (CMM Rotterdam); and two in Vlissingen (CMM Vlissingen).
The remainder of the Pilotage Service, in peacetime falling under the Ministry of Transport and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstaat), would be militarised as well: personnel and materiel would be placed under the authority of the Minister of Defence.