NATO Navies and Air Forces Exercise in the Baltic Sea
(Source: NATO; issued June 8, 2020)
BALTOPS naval exercise that kicked off in the Baltic Sea on Sunday (7 June). The 49th BALTOPS exercise, which runs until 16 June, involves maritime and air forces with around 30 ships and submarines, and 30 aircraft. The training includes air defence, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction and mine countermeasure operations.

To ensure the safety and health of participating military personnel, BALTOPS 2020 will take place exclusively at sea.

"The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the Alliance and is bordered by six NATO countries, and two close partners”, said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. She added, “While we continue to take all the necessary measures to protect our armed forces against the health crisis, our operational readiness remains undiminished”.

For the first time, the exercise will be commanded ashore by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) from its headquarters in Lisbon, Portugal.

“BALTOPS provides the opportunity for NATO and partner nations to operate together, sharing best practices to improve real world operations,” said U.S. Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and commander, U.S. 6th Fleet.

NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany, will direct all air operations. “We are supporting BALTOPS by planning and coordinating exercise air operations and synchronizing maritime and air operations with STRIKFORNATO and U.S. 6th Fleet,” said Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer, Commander of the CAOC. NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft will also participate and coordinate some of the air manoeuvres.

BALTOPS is the largest exercise series in the Baltic Sea. Participating troops come from Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, and the United States.

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Royal Navy Warships Join Major NATO Exercise
(Source: Royal Navy; issued June 08, 2020)
Frigate HMS Kent and minehunter HMS Ramsey lead the Royal Navy’s involvement in the biggest war games of 2020 in the Baltic.

The two British warships and their 250 sailors join upwards of 3,000 military personnel from over a dozen nations in NATO’s Baltops, an annual workout of allied and partner nations to test their combined ability to guarantee the safety and security of the Baltic region.

Baltops has taken place every year since 1972, with the 49th iteration focusing entirely on operations on, above and beneath the waves.

Around two dozen ships and a similar number of aircraft will concentrate on numerous core naval warfare tasks including air defence, anti-submarine warfare and minehunting.

At the forefront of the latter is HMS Ramsey, which arrived in the Baltic last month to take her place with a NATO mine warfare group which has spent the past couple of works operating off Estonia and Lithuania, dealing with leftover ordnance from the two world wars.

It’s the second year running the Faslane-based minehunter has taken part in Baltops – the Royal Navy maintains a presence in the region most of the year as part of a NATO task group.

“In these uncertain times, continuing to deliver on operations is essential in protecting collective NATO and UK interests, and Baltops demonstrates an enduring commitment to strengthen our combined understanding, diverse range of capability, and ability to respond to emerging threats,” said Ramsey’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Joel Roberts.

“The training value being in company with so many allies and partner nations is invaluable.”

HMS Kent arrives in the Baltic after joint training with the US Navy in the Barents Sea – the first foray into waters off the northernmost tip of Europe in more than a decade by a Royal Navy warship.

Like Ramsey, the Portsmouth-based Type 23 anti-submarine warfare frigate was in these same waters last year, joining the Royal Navy-led amphibious Joint Expeditionary Force.

Kent’s primary role is anti-submarine warfare, making use of a combination of active and passive underwater sensors and, currently, a Merlin helicopter from 814 Naval Air Squadron to hunt down and, if necessary, eliminate submarine threats.

With no submarines taking part in the 2020 roll-out of Baltops, instead the frigate will be expected to deal with multiple threats from aircraft, boats and submarines, using her suite of cutting-edge sensors and weapon systems to detect and engage them.

“My ship’s company are eager to take part in the exercise and up for the challenge, focusing on our ability to operate seamlessly with our NATO and partner nations,” said Kent’s Commanding Officer, Commander Matt Sykes.

“In these turbulent times, it is also vitally important that we demonstrate our commitment to the region and to upholding the principles of freedom of access to the Baltic Sea.”

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