Massed together for the first time, these are the British and international ships mustered off the Danish coast for the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force.
Nine vessels – five of them British – linked up to flex their muscle and demonstrate their ability to work together, the first act of the two-month-long Operation Baltic Protector, designed to demonstrate the resolve of the UK, its allies and nations in the region to defend the sea and countries which border it.
With the Royal Navy’s Amphibious Task Group at its heart (flagship HMS Albion, support ship RFA Lyme Bay, helicopter support vessel RFA Argus, frigate HMS Kent and military ferry MV Hurst Point), the opening week of the deployment has been focused on meshing the force both at sea and on land.
Joining the Brits at sea are Denmark’s command ship HDMS Absalon, Dutch amphibious ship HNLMS Johann de Witt and Norwegian missile boats HNoMS Steil and Glimt.
"On Baltic Protector, I have been using the tactical headset and pushing out signals to other vessels,” explained seaman specialist Able Seaman Alexander Mansell from Solihull. "This has allowed us to do different formations and Officer of the Watch manoeuvres, allowing us to work alongside other nations.”
The amphibious forces – led by 540 Royal Marines of 45 Commando, the UK’s on-call unit to deal with international crises, plus a raiding company of Dutch marines – have been put ashore in western Denmark by helicopters and landing craft.
There, ‘fighting’ with their Danish and Norwegian comrades, practising helicopter raids, dealing with vehicle ambushes, urban combat, parachute drops and live firing of artillery pieces and mortars.
"The first week of Baltic Protector has focused on integrating forces from across the Joint Expeditionary Force into a single amphibious task group,” said Brigadier Matt Jackson, leading the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade.
“One of the deployment's main objectives is to develop our ability to do this quickly and effectively during a crisis.
“Our navies are used to working together and have a shared history of military operations – I’m very conscious that we are nearing the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and it is also precisely 100 years since the Royal Navy played a decisive role in Baltic independence.
Brigadier Jackson continued: “Today, our amphibious forces remain at the heart of UK’s – and NATO’s – ability to respond to crises within Europe and around the world.
“From a UK perspective, we pride ourselves on being ready to operate anywhere, and deploying to the Baltic Sea will allow us to learn from nations that live and operate there every day – this really is their backyard.”
Once exercises in Jutland are complete, the emphasis shifts to the main annual military exercise in the region, the US-led Baltops, which has been running since the 1970s.
At its peak the Baltic Protector deployment will include more than 3800 personnel and up to 20 ships.