On May 24 inaugural deployment of the United Kingdom-led Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF) M) Baltic Protector began in the Baltic Sea. Exercise training audience will include soldiers of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and one of the final phases of the exercise will take place on Lithuania’s coast.
The exercise involves 3 thousand soldiers and 17 warships from all nine JEF countries – the United Kingdom, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. The exercise command will be delivered from aboard HMS Albion of the United Kingdom Royal Navy.
“The Joint Expeditionary Force is one more measure of deterrence and defence which strengthens the security of both, Lithuania and the Baltic region, and helps to maintain the close cooperation with our allies, and Baltic Protector demonstrates the ability of this multinational rapid response force to project security in the Baltic region,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says. Ministers of Defence of the JEF countries agreed on the Baltic Protector deployment in April earlier this year in London when testing the political decision-making process.
The first of the three phases of the deployment is taking place in Denmark. Military personnel and warships of the nine JEF countries will begin integration exercises in the western part of the Baltic Sea and the eastern part of the North Sea.
In June the JEF will showcase not only its ability to act independently but also to integrate with and support forces of international organisations — in the second phase of the exercise the JEF will act alongside NATO allies conducting the annual U.S.-led Exercise BALTOPS. The training forces will carry out tasks near the coast of Germany and Sweden.
The closing phase of Baltic Protector will focus on amphibious operations and landing on the Baltic coastline, and interoperability with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic countries. JEF troops will complete a nighttime amphibious landing operation on the Baltic Sea coast and proceed to train tactical operations in Kairiai Training Area near Klaipėda with Lithuanian colleagues.
The UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force was established at the NATO Summit in 2014 and became operational after one year. The force reached Full Operational Capability in June 2018 with the signature of the Comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding in London and announcement of the force to be ready to act. Today the high-readiness rapid response force comprises 10 thousand troops can be activated to respond to emergencies in Europe and beyond any time necessary.
The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania gave a mandate for the Lithuanian Armed Forces to take part in military operations as part of the NATO Response Force, European Union Battle Groups and the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, therefore, once there is a political decision, there is also the legal basis to deploy our soldiers at short notice and ensure crisis management.
One Lithuanian officer has been serving in the JEF operational headquarters in Northwood, United Kingdom, since early 2016. Lithuania is also contributing a company sized unit assigned to the Combat Group of the Danish Armed Forces and a military medic assigned to the UK field hospital. Up to Lithuanian 190 civilian and military personnel can take part in the JEF activities on the basis of the mandate provided by the Seimas this year.