Fourteen NATO allies, two NATO partner nations, over 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft, and approximately 7,000 personnel kick off Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 22) from Stockholm today.
This premier maritime-focused annual exercise in the Baltic Region takes place June 5-17 and provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen combined response capabilities critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea. This is the 51st iteration of the exercise series that began in 1972.
“In past iterations of BALTOPS we’ve talked about meeting the challenges of tomorrow,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet. “Those challenges are upon us – in the here and now. BALTOPS 22 highlights our past investments and shows our collective partnership and capabilities as we recognize the importance of ‘freedom of the seas’ and the vital role the Baltic plays in European prosperity.”
Participating nations include Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries will exercise a myriad of capabilities demonstrating the inherent flexibility of maritime forces. Exercise scenarios include amphibious operations, gunnery, anti-submarine, air defense, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, unmanned underwater vehicles, and medical response.
The exercise is led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Sixth Fleet, command and controlled by STRIKFORNATO. Royal British Navy Rear Adm. James Morley, STRIKFORNATO deputy commander, will command the exercise control group.
“BALTOPS is a fabulous opportunity for allied and partner nations to train together at sea, in the air and on the ground – improving interoperability and experience working together.” said Morley. “It also serves to assure those in the region that NATO is ready to defend itself.”
Unique to BALTOPS 22 is Sweden’s celebration of their Navy’s 500th anniversary coinciding with the exercise. BALTOPS 22 also features more robust medical response scenarios, specifically during personnel recovery training aboard a submarine. New to this year’s iteration is the incorporation of chaplaincy response, featuring five participating nation chaplains. The exercise also builds on previous iterations by enhancing the incorporation of the space domain through the NATO Space Center.
Enhanced COVID prevention measures affords participants the ability to have more interaction than the previous two years, while ensuring crews remain healthy and ready to provide continuous regional security.