Evidence of mine field discovered during Baltic Operations 2009 exercise

USS MOUNT WHITNEY, Baltic Sea — A Swedish Navy ship operating in the Baltic Sea June 10 discovered evidence of a mine line while participating in Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) exercise 2009.

HSwMS Faaroesund (MUL 20) discovered an object while deploying its autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for a tactical evaluation of the sea floor as part of BALTOPS. This discovery could indicate the presence of underwater mines left over from both World Wars I and II in the vicinity.

The Swedish officer responsible for planning the evolution, Lt. Cmdr. Jorgen Bergman, said that the objects like this one, found southeast of the Swedish island Oland, were placed by the Nazis throughout the Baltic Sea during WWII. They were intended to obscure the location of mines from Allied Forces. "We are really exited about this opportunity to take what was a theoretical exercise and make it a real world operation," said Bergman who is assigned to the BALTOPS staff on board USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20). "If the presence of mines is confirmed, the Swedish Navy will start removing them to remove the threat to the area. By being able to recognize the object, the Swedish Navy now has a frame of reference for locating more," added Bergman. The AUV Sapphires, the Swedish torpedo converted for underwater surveying, detected the object with its Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS). SAS is a sophisticated system that generates a higher resolution than standard types of sonar.

It's estimated that over 100,000 mines were laid throughout both World Wars ranging from Sweden to Lithuania with approximately 60,000 remaining undiscovered. The presence of the mines creates problems in shipping lanes and underwater development in the Baltic Sea.

BALTOPS is comprised of forces from 12 countries and is the largest multinational naval exercise this year in the Baltic Sea. Annually hosted by the United States Navy, the exercise aims to improve maritime security in the Baltic Sea through increased interoperability and cooperation among regional allies.

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