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Dynamic Manta 2020 (DYMA20) - NATO’s Advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare Exercise

Hosted by the Italian Navy (Marina Militare), the “Dynamic Manta 2020” (DYMA20) Submarine Warfare Exercise was held between February 24 – March 6, 2020, in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily with the participation of NATO allies Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Issue 98

The aim of the annual exercise hosted by NATO’s Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) is to boost the coordinative capacities of all participating countries in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and to enhance interoperability and overall multi-lateral operations among NATO allies. 

As the host nation, Italy provided operational support in Catania Harbor, the Navy Helicopter Base in Catania and Naval Air Station Sigonella, as well as logistic support (refueling operations, medical assistance, and personnel accommodation) at the Augusta Naval Base. A total of seven frigates, four submarines, and five maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) from the allied nations participated in the Dynamic Manta (DYMA20) exercise. Submarines from France, Greece, Italy, and Turkey under NATO Submarine Command (COMSUBNATO) joined the surface ships from Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Turkey.  The team simulated a multi-threat environment with maritime patrol aircraft from Canada, Germany, France, Turkey, and the United States and shore-based helicopters from Italy and the United Kingdom operated from Sigonella Air Base and the Italian Navy’s Helicopter base in Catania, under the control of NATO Maritime Air Command (COMMARAIRNATO).

The sophisticated training exercise was orchestrated principally to test out NATO’s maritime forces to evaluate the Alliance’s capacity in case of unexpected and urgent events. Dynamic Manta is one of two annual NATO-led Anti-Submarine Warfare interoperability exercises. Manta is conducted in the Mediterranean (focused on finding boats in warmer waters), and the other ASW exercise, Dynamic Mongoose, is carried out in the North Atlantic region. Dynamic Manta is based around Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG 2) which is one of four very high readiness surface forces that NATO maintains under its Maritime Command (MARCOM). NATO Maritime Command leads four Standing Maritime Groups (two destroyers/frigate groups and two mine countermeasures groups), which are multinational, integrated maritime forces made up of vessels from Allied countries. 

These vessels are under continuous NATO command to perform a wide range of tasks ranging from deterrent presence and situational awareness to exercises and the conduct of operational missions. These groups provide NATO with an immediate operational response capability both in peacetime and in crisis. They demonstrate Alliance resolve and foster solidarity, as well as enhance the Alliance’s relations with Partner nations through visits and exchanges. These four groups comprise the core of the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in the NATO Response Forces (NRF), providing timely maritime support to NATO operations in a contingency. Additional forces could be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff on board and the ships of the group as the nucleus. The purpose of exercises like Dynamic Manta and its sister exercise in the North Atlantic, Dynamic Mongoose, is to allow those task groups to prove their proficiency in specialized warfare areas.

Alongside the traditional assets, there were also several unmanned systems, some of which are provided by NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE). The Alliance’s Italy-based research laboratory participated in the exercise with unmanned undersea vehicles and gliders to contribute to sub-hunting operations as additional submarine hunters while also testing out the new gear and new tactics. During the Dynamic Manta, CMRE deployed two Ocean Explorer large autonomous unmanned vehicles (AUVs) fitted with thin-line towed array sonar systems, along with Liquid Robotics Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) that are acting as communications nodes between the surface and sub-surface domains.

On the morning of the first day of the Dynamic Manta, allied frigates and submarines left the port of Catania and conducted their first joint drills with helicopters. An SH-90 helicopter from Italian frigate ITS Carabiniere (F 593) deployed its dipping sonar into the Ionian Sea to detect the submarine movements in the region where the Turkish frigate TCG Salihreis (F-246), Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton (FFH 337), and the Italian submarine ITS Salvatore Todaro (S 526) were located. One of the Turkish Navy’s most critical striking forces, the TCG Salihreis frigate, also participated in the NATO exercise to boost cooperation between allied countries. Turkish Naval Forces, with more than ten warships operating across the Eastern and Central Mediterranean region, was one of the naval forces that provided maximum support to the NATO exercise Dynamic Manta 2020. The Turkish Naval Forces took part in the exercise with the Barbaros class frigate TCG Salihreis (F-246), Preveze class submarine TCG 18 mart (S-355), and a P-235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). In addition to these elements, the Gabya class frigate TCG Gaziantep (F-490) also provided partial support to the exercise. On March 9, 2020, the Turkish Ministry of National Defence made an announcement on the social media stating that the Turkish Maritime Patrol Aircraft, flew 15 sorties during NATO Exercise "Dynamic Manta 2020", detecting all four allied submarines and reaching highest operational tempo and detection rate among all participating aircraft.

During the exercise, each surface ship had the opportunity to conduct a variety of submarine warfare operations. The submarines took turns hunting and being hunted, closely coordinating their efforts with the air and surface participants. NATO exercise Dynamic Manta (DYMA20) showcased the collaborative approach required for effective ASW operations by providing an invaluable opportunity to improve the collective NATO anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capabilities by flexing NATO tactical ASW doctrine against some very challenging targets.