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Towards European military diving training standards

Joint diving operations involving different EU Member States’ Navies remain almost impossible because up till now, there are no common European diving standards which would allow such cooperation. This lack of interoperability has led to a severe shortage in ships and rescue divers which are indispensable assets in every national or international naval operation.

To enable cooperation and enhance interoperability among Member States' military diving squads, EDA’s Project Team Naval Training launched a ‘Naval Training Support Study’ (NTSS) in 2012, focused on three aspects: navigation training, naval mine warfare, and diving training. The aim of this study, the results of which were presented in 2014, was to provide a landscape of existing capabilities, propose possible common requirements, derive shortfalls based on a gap analysis, and propose recommendations to solve them. As regards Diving Training, the study made several recommendations, including to establish a doctrine concerning military diving (starting with air/ship diver), to establish a shared diving regulation to meet the operational needs, to standardise training & operational qualification criteria and to have a common certification process for diving centres. A follow-up to the NTSS study (phase 2) was commissioned in 2017 and completed in December 2017. It delivered, among others, a comprehensive set of data and analyses of Member States’ national diving standards, a common requirements list for ship divers and minimum qualification standards for military divers. The results were presented to EDA’s Project Team Naval Training in January 2018.

Based on the extended NTSS study and the conclusions of a diving workshop held in La Spezia (Italy) in September 2017, EDA launched a new project in spring 2018 in order to design and conduct a course module to harmonise European ship diving and ship-based rescue diving standards and practices. The overall objective is the identification, recognition and mutual certification of common EU military diving standards.

Showcase event held in Toulon

As part of that ongoing project, and in order to test and confirm the practical implications involved in joint diving training and operation, an EDA ‘showcase event’ was held on 3 April 2019 in the harbour of St.Mandrier, near Toulon (France). Four diving teams from Germany, Spain, Poland and Romania participated in this exercise, as well as high ranking naval officers from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Poland and Romania. The aim was to conduct joint interventions under real conditions based on realistic naval incident scenarios and to demonstrate how the proposed common standards would successfully work in practice. As an example: Romanian and Polish divers worked hand in hand to recover an anchor while Spanish and a German diving team jointly inspected a Frigate’s hull and performed repair work on a pier using heavy underwater welding equipment. The practical part of the event was complemented by a static display of different equipment and procedures ashore.

The event was hailed as a great success by all participants.  EDA’s Project Team Naval Training was encouraged to continue promoting the identified standards and seek their swift endorsement by EU Member States as a next step.  Commodore Michael Malone, Flag Officer Commanding the Irish Naval Service, who attended the event commented that “EU common diving standards will facilitate greater pooling and sharing of diving training across Member States, while enhancing interoperability”

(picture: Défense Conseil International, DCI)