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First minehunter was delivered to Estonia

8. May 2008 - 13:16
Today, 26th April, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, Chief of the Naval Staff of the Royal Army of the United Kingdom, handed over the first Sandown class minehunter to the Estonian Ministry of Defence.

At a ceremony at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard, Martin Hurt, the Estonian MoD Deputy Undersecretary for Defence Investments officially accepted the ship, and for the first time, the naval ensign of the Estonian Navy was hoisted on the ship. This is the first of three Sandown class minehunters which were sold to Estonia based on a sales agreement signed on 14th September last on board the HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson’s former flagship.

These vessels are among Estonia’s second most significant defence procurement of the current decade and will significantly increase the capability of the Estonian Navy. They will be used for the locating and disposing of sea mines and other ordnance, which were deposited in Estonian’s exclusive economic zone during the two world wars. The vessels will also be used in NATO joint exercises and operations.

The HMS Sandown, which was regenerated for Estonian military use at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard, Scotland, will be renamed ENS Admiral Cowan. This is in commemoration of Admiral Sir Walter “Tich” Cowan, who led a squadron of British warships that fought alongside Estonian forces in 1919 for the independence of the young republic.

In his ceremonial speech, Admiral Sir Jonathan Band, of the British Royal Navy said, “the handing over of this ship today marks a successive milestone in the development of relations with Estonia, a country which is an important ally of the United Kingdom and is co-operating with our soldiers in Afghanistan. It is important that the UK Ministry of Defence continues the development of strong and long-term relations with other NATO countries and helps to develop their military capability, thereby supporting NATO operations and improving training.”

Martin Hurt, the Estonian MoD Deputy Undersecretary for Defence Investments, said, “today’s ceremony is again proof of the close and productive defence-related co-operation between Estonia and the UK. The UK has been a strategic partner for Estonia and we have common position regarding many current security issues. A good example of the co-operation and common understandings is the participation of an Estonian contingent in the task force led by the UK in southern Afghanistan.”

In addition, Martin Hurt thanked the representatives of the Royal Navy for the hospitality shown to the crew of the ENS Admiral Cowan and for the training they received. He added: “I am happy to acknowledge that in connection with the ship procurement project the relations between the navies of our two countries have become even closer. Our common objective is to have our mutual co-operation provide benefits to both countries.”

The Sandown class minehunters are the second largest defence procurement after accession to NATO. The total price for the three ships is 800 million EEK, which includes refurbishment and maintenance work for the ships, as well as training for the crew in the United Kingdom.

The repair and maintenance work was carried out on all the main and weapons systems on board the Admiral Cowan. The MCM capability of the ship has also been improved, which should support its future mine-clearing operations in Estonia. The ship’s accommodation and galley have been refurbished and the ship has been painted in colours appropriate for the Baltic Sea. Based on the signed agreement, the Estonian crew received training before the ship set out to sea and the training was carried out under the watchful eye of FOST (Flag Officer Sea Training) instructors. The Admiral Cowan will arrive at its homeport in July.

The Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Major-General Ants Laaneots, and senior officials from the Estonian and British Defence Ministries, as well as military personnel, participated in the formal ceremony.