Lithuanian-hosted exercise BALTOPS 2018 concludes

The US Navy-led and Lithuanian-hosted international exercise BALTOPS 2018 concluded on June 15 as participating ships arrived in Kiel, Germany.

Thirty ships from 12 nations maneuver in close formation for a PHOTEX during BALTOPS 2018. Photo: US Navy

During the two-week BALTOPS exercise, over 100 drills in surface, subsurface, air defense, mine counter measures, maritime interdictions, and joint personnel recovery were completed among the 43 maritime units, 60 aircraft, and approximately 5,000 maritime, ground, and air force personnel.

The annual joint maritime exercise is the 46th iteration of the exercise and is designed to improve flexibility and interoperability among the participants.

Although the exercise was large and complex, Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander, US 6th Fleet and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKEFORNATO), said that the exercise demonstrates the three key “C”’s: commitment, capability, and cohesion.

“By training together on a regular basis in this strategically important part of the world we enhance the interoperability and demonstrate the capability of NATO allies and partners to operate across the spectrum of maritime operations,” said Franchetti.

Franchetti believes that no single nation can address today’s challenges alone and knows NATO is stronger when they work together.

“The fact that this is the 46th occurrence of BALTOPS demonstrates our combined and enduring willingness to work toward our common goals of regional security and stability,” said Franchetti.

The exercise trained in many familiar areas such as anti-surface operations, anti-submarine warfare and amphibious operations, but this year included new events to expand the participant’s skill sets.

“Joint personnel recovery has been included for the first time, with a focus on recovery in the maritime domain,” said Franchetti. “The mine countermeasures units also participated in several operations and technological experimentation measures, designed to advance our collective efforts in mine warfare.”

This BALTOPS exercise also featured a particular focus on mission command and information sharing.

Although the at-sea portion of the exercise concluded with the force’s arrival in Kiel, exercise participants convened for a post-sail conference upon arrival. This final event provided an opportunity for planners and participants to collect feedback that will ensure continued success of the largest, multinational naval exercise in the Baltic region.

While in Kiel, the navies are taking part in Kiel Week, an annual maritime festival event considered to be the largest event of its type in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year.