Netherlands Maritime Force (NLMARFOR)
The NLMARFOR is the deployable and operational staff of the Royal Netherlands Navy and leads joint fleet unit and marine operations. Depending on the nature of the operation this may involve frigates, minehunters, supply ships, submarines, hydrographical ships, marines or helicopters. In addition, the staff may be complemented with components of other armed forces or foreign units.
The four central concepts of the NLMARFOR are: expeditionary, modular, international and joint. Depending on the nature of the maritime operation, it may be carried out in a national or international context.
Dutch military personnel are increasingly deployed far from home. Recently, for example, that has included Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan. Facilities such as electricity and telephone, and first necessities such as water and food are often barely available in these areas, and therefore must be taken along. In this respect, the operation is in fact an expedition and is therefore referred to as ‘expeditionary’. Naval units are highly suitable for this kind of operation, because all necessities can be carried on board the ships. NLMARFOR is therefore primarily focused on the support and execution of expeditionary operations.
Naval units form separate modules that are able to operate independently. Examples include ships or marine battalions. Furthermore, units can be combined into a separate module, such as a mine detection and clearing group. This module can in turn be incorporated into a larger whole, such as a ‘maritime expeditionary task group’ or internationally, for example, into NATO’s rapid response force. This flexibility allows the staff to lead different operations: from ‘just’ mine detection and clearing operations up to the largest and most complex amphibious operations.
The Netherlands’ armed forces seldom carry out military operations on their own. International cooperation is an important element in the preparation, as well as in the execution of many operations. Examples include operations in a NATO, UN or EU context. An example that highlights this international orientation is the intensive cooperation between the Belgian and Netherlands navies in which instruction and training are largely integrated.
In military terms, ‘joint’ refers to the cooperation between different Services of a military organisation, so, in the case of the Netherlands, between the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marechaussee. The Services support and complement one another in order to ensure the successful completion of an operation.
Depending on the size and complexity of an operation, several national and/or international modules are combined into a rapidly deployable ‘maritime expeditionary task group’ and placed under the command of the NLMARFOR. The most extensive task group is the amphibious task group, specialised in carrying out operations at the boundary between land and water, making it possible to initiate and support operations on land.
The core of the amphibious task group consists of one or more Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) with marines on board, and, if necessary, other units that are capable of operating on land. This task group can, for example, be deployed to take over and secure a harbour in preparation for the arrival of other ground troops, but also to assist in the evacuation of civilians from an unsafe area or to offer assistance in the event of a natural or other type of disaster. The various modules within the Maritime Expeditionary Task Group each have their own specific tasks that are precisely aligned with one another.