TODENDORF, Germany --- Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis, Commander, U.S. Second Fleet, visited with forces from exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) Mine Warfare Task Group during the first day of operations during the exercise June 9.
Lewis, the commander of BALTOPS 2019, spoke of the relevance of working with partner nations in the areas of mine warfare during BALTOPS, as he spoke with task unit leaders from the Mine Warfare Task Group.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of what each of you are doing as part of this exercise,” Lewis said. “Having 11 nations working together to move from interoperability to full integration in complex mine countermeasures (MCM) operations is significant, and you are doing things together now as experienced, professional maritime operators that have not been done in a long time – or ever done before – in the Baltic Sea.”
The BALTOPS Mine Warfare Task Group (CTG 162.60) is the largest, by number of ships, among the Task Groups under Lewis’ leadership. In total, it includes more than 15 MCM ships, 15 undersea unmanned vehicles (UUV), five drone ships, airborne MCM (AMCM), and more than 70 divers. Mariners and mine warfare experts from 11 allied nations that comprise three distinct task units led by the Baltic Naval Squadron (BALTRON), Standing NATO MCM Group (SNMCMG) 1, and MCM Division (MCMDIV) 31.
Rear Adm. Scott Robertson is leading the Mine Warfare Task Group in his role as the U.S. Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander within his responsibilities as the commander of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center.
“Maintaining open sea lines of communication including ports, key landing areas, and strategic choke points is a critical part of maintaining sea power and sea control, and mine warfare is a key part of that effort that cuts across warfare domains,” Robertson said. “Getting underway with our partners and allies to exercise those skills, refine doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures, and to experiment with new technology keeps us stronger together.”
BALTOPS 2019 is showcasing new developments in mine warfare including:
-- The first time that a U.S. Flag officer will lead the Mine Warfare Task Group in the exercise.
-- Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 28 will exercise AMCM capabilities in the Baltic Sea for the first time in more than a decade.
-- The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet Science Advisor and his team will exercise new and existing Mk 18 Mod II UUV technology partnering with a German ship for the first time in the Baltic Sea.
-- The NATO Naval Mine Warfare Center of Excellence will integrate with the Task Group to support the development and refinement of tactics, techniques, and procedures with allied nations.
-- Expeditionary Exploitation Unit 1 (EXU-1) will support the exercise for the first time since its establishment as a command in 2018.
“We often talk about interoperability when we work together as partners and allies,” Lewis said. “But interoperability is just the first step toward full integration as a force. That is what we are after in this exercise, and the Mine Warfare Task Group is a great example of how we are moving in the right direction.”
During the exercise, the Mine Warfare Task Group will work support the landing of amphibious forces by seeking out and clearing inert training mines using various components of mine warfare, all while developing and refining existing, new, and emerging capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures as an integrated team including offensive mining.
Nations participating in the BALTOPS 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group include Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.
Nations participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
BALTOPS is an opportunity to promote partnerships, presence, and professionalism through an unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region.