ITS Alghero is a Mine Hunter Coastal Unit specially designed for the detection and disposal of naval mines. For the conduct of these operations, the ship is equipped with a sophisticated sonar system which can be paid out up to 50m, and with two wire-guided remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), that can be used to detect and investigate any object lying on the sea bottom at a depth up to about 600m.
Following the recent review of the naval fleet, since 1st December 2014 ITS Alghero has been operating under the authority of the Italian Naval Fleet Command (CINCNAV), through the 54th Coastal Minehunter Squadron Command (COMSQUADRAG CINQUE QUATTRO) and the Mine Countermeasures Forces Command (MARICODRAG).
Besides the conduct of mine-clearance operations at sea (core mission), this type of naval unit has been actually designed for dual-use deployment.
In the course of time, the range of complementary activities has included partnerships with the Ministry of the Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the national magistracy and other State Ministries and Agencies, all sharing interest in exploring and investigating the depths of the sea in order to look for wrecked vessels and aircraft, historical or archaeological finds and any other objet lying on the sea bottom, or in support of the protection and preservation of the marine ecosystem, often for research purposes. Equipped with a multiplace hyperbaric chamber, and medical personnel specialized in physiopathology of underwater work, the unit may also be employed in support of underwater operations, even at significant depth. In case of need, the ship’s divers are able to dive to a depth up to 60m.
Moreover, the unit’s wider institutional task is the constant protection of national interests, including control of sea borders, protection and rescue of human lives at sea and antipollution surveillance for the protection of the marine ecosystem.
ITS Alghero was laid down on 5 August 1988, launched on 4 May 1991 and delivered to the Italian Navy on 31 March 1993.
On 8 July 1994, the ship entered the port of Alghero, and on 10 July 1994 was assigned her battle flag, offered by the Alghero branch of the National Association of the Italian Sailors. In spring 1995, ITS Alghero conducted a training campaign in Northern Europe, during which she obtained the NATO certification at the Naval Mine Warfare Centre of Excellence, Oostende, then taking part in the exercise NORMINEX 95 and MCM Deployment 95. During these activities, the unit called at the ports of Malaga, Portsmouth, Oostende, Brest and La Coruña.
In the same year, ITS Alghero participated in the exercises Ariadmi 95 in Greece and Damsel Fair 95 in Turkey.
Between December 1995 and January 1996 – within the allied task force – the unit took part in the operation IFOR in the Adriatic Sea, aimed at mine clearance of the waters affected by the conflict in former Yugoslavia. From March to May of the same year, the ship was engaged in multinational exercises Destined Glory 96 and Matador 96.
In 1999, the unit sailed back to the Adriatic Sea to conduct mine clearance following the War in Kosovo.
From January to July 2000, ITS Alghero participated for the first time in the NATO MCM Force operating in the Mediterranean Sea – then called MCMFORMED – mainly deployed in Central/Eastern Mediterranean and in the Adriatic Sea, where she took part in the operation Allied Harvest II.
In 2001, at the end of a series of major exercises and some research activities looking for wrecks on the seafloor, ITS Alghero was again deployed to the Adriatic Sea, along with other units of the MCM component. From February to July 2005, the ship participated for the second time in the NATO MCM Force – now called SNMCMG2 – conducting multinational activities in the Balearic Sea, Eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and Red Sea.
After conducting a series of Route Survey campaigns in national ports and activities of clearance of unexploded ordnance in the waters of the Ligurian Sea in 2007, the unit mainly conducted advanced training activities in 2008 in the Ligurian Sea, at the end of which she was assigned a major overhaul period.
In the years 2010 and 2011, besides a long series of specialized exercises, the ship went through scheduled training, combat readiness evaluation and certification process, in which evaluators of the NATO EGUERMIN (Ecole de Guerre des Mines) Training Centre were also involved. In the first four-month period of 2012, the unit participated again in the SNMCMG2, in the waters of the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean.