Dutch defence operations overview

Overview of Dutch defence operations up to 3rd May 2022

Dutch soldiers built a bridge of wood and steel in Lithuania to keep their skills to date. Engineers not only constructed the span, but also blew it up.

Other colleagues successfully passed an American skill test for shooting 120mm mortars. The Dutch mortar group was the first ‘foreign’ unit to obtain the US Mortar Expert Badge.

There were also exercises at the enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia. An infantry platoon trained with a Canadian unit to operate in an urban area. Dutch snipers also took part in the exercise. They also had German colleagues under their command.

The Netherlands has been contributing to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania since 2017. The Ministry of Defence is currently deploying around 300 soldiers. The force is in the Baltic country to show that NATO is ready and to radiate solidarity with the Lithuanian people. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it clear that the participation of Dutch troops in the eFP is important. The focus is on military exercises in an international context.

The C-130 detachment in Mali has been busy working with an orphanage in the capital Bamako. Thanks to fundraising activities, the playroom underwent a metamorphosis. The children received toys, bicycles and cuddly toys, among other things. The military also provided refrigerators, 500 kg of rice, baby food and food rations.

The Netherlands contributes to the UN mission Minusma in Mali. The UN has a 90-strong air force detachment with a C-130 Hercules at its disposal. The aircraft supports Minusma by transporting mainly cargo and people. Minusma also has 3 staff officers in Bamako and 3 soldiers who assist the Germans in Gao. In addition, the Netherlands is providing 3 police officers and 1 soldier for the police component of the mission. All 14,000 Minusma blue helmets are commanded by the Dutch Lieutenant-General Kees Matthijssen. As long as he is force commander, the Netherlands will provide 15 extra soldiers to the Minusma staff.

Furthermore, 6 Dutch troops are supporting the European training mission EUTM in Mali. This mission has been temporarily suspended. EU foreign coordinator Josep Borrell said that the Malian authorities are not giving enough security guarantees for the non-interference of the Russian Wagner Group. The EU is not withdrawing from Mali though.

Zr.Ms. De Zeven Provinciën
The Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) practised in the Baltic Sea and subsequently visited Stockholm, Sweden. The ships are now on the high seas again for an exercise with the Swedish Navy. This is to strengthen the mutual cooperation. Air defence and command frigate Zr.Ms. De Zeven Provinciën acts as the staff ship of the fleet. The Netherlands provides the commander and a large part of the staff. SNMG1 is one of the four permanent NATO maritime response forces.

Defence of NATO territory
In addition to the Dutch contributions to Defence Operations, the armed forces make ships, land forces units and aircraft available for the ‘first main task’ of Defence: allied defence of the NATO treaty area. To this end, Defence supplies capacities to the NATO Response Force (NRF). This is the NATO Rapid Reaction Force and consists, among other things, of a very rapidly deployable part. These are the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VTJF) and its successors, such as the Initial Follow-on Forces Group (IFFG). The IFFG consists of units that can reinforce the VJTF.

Ongoing operations abroad

  • Some 120 Dutch troops are securing the Erbil airport and the surrounding area in Iraq. In Iraq, the Netherlands is also taking part in NATO’s capacity-building mission. The operation focuses on advising the security sector. The Netherlands also has four officers in Baghdad and two in Erbil. They mainly advise on how best to plan and direct operations against ISIS. The deployment is supported by the National Support Element in both Baghdad and Erbil. Two Dutch staff officers work at the mission headquarters in Kuwait.
  • F-35 fighter planes of the Royal Netherlands Air Force monitor the airspace on the eastern flank of the NATO treaty area from bases in Bulgaria.
  • A Patriot air defence system protects vital objects in Central Slovakia against possible airborne threats.
    Dr. Schiedam is part of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). This NATO force is part of the NATO Response Force and is specialised in keeping the sea, coastal waters and harbour approaches mine free.
  • Zr.Ms. Groningen is the station ship in the Caribbean area. It is deployed there for coastguard tasks and counterdrug operations.
  • In the Middle East, Dutch military personnel are involved in peacekeeeping missions. These include Undof, Untso and Unifil.
  • In Jerusalem and Ramallah, six Dutch soldiers are involved in the USSC mission. Three are civilians and three are military. USSC focuses on professionalising the Palestinian security sector. USSC tries to contribute to the viability of a stable Palestinian state. The US coordinates the mission.
  • Soldiers from the Fleet Marine Squadron of the Navy form so-called vessel protection detachments. These regularly protect Dutch ships against piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
  • Dutch military personnel also contribute to various mission headquarters and advanced posts. The uniformed personnel have been deployed individually to Rota in Spain (European Union Naval Forces), Bahrain (Combined Maritime Forces), Abu Dhabi (European-led Maritime Awareness Strait of Hormuz), Tunis (European Liaison & Planning Cell Tunis), Kosovo (European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo), Qatar (Operation Inherent Resolve) and Rome (EU Operation Irini).

Operations/actions in the Netherlands:

  • The surveillance of the Benelux airspace is done 24/7 by the air combat control from Air Operations Control Station Nieuw Milligen. For security, use is made of alternately Dutch and Belgian F-16s. At this moment, the task lies with the Netherlands.
  • The Explosives Clearing Service of the Ministry of Defence cleared and identified 50 explosives.
    Defence contributes in various ways to the reception of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees and asylum seekers from other countries. This takes place at the Marine Etablissement Amsterdam, at Defence locations in Zeist and Zoutkamp and at Army location Harskamp. The Ministry of Defence will make this reception location available until the end of August, which is three months longer than planned.
  • At the extra secure court in Amsterdam Osdorp, the military support the police. This takes place during the surveillance and protection of the hearings of the so-called Marengo trial.
  • Since 1 May, Defence has made part of the Erfprins naval terrain in Den Helder available for a temporary radar and marine telephone set-up. In this way, continuity is guaranteed in case of failure (and recovery) of the equipment in the Lange Jaap lighthouse.
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