Nineteen NATO Allies, one NATO partner nation, 50 ships, more than 45 aircraft, and approximately 6,000 personnel kicked off the 52nd iteration of Baltic Operations 2023 (BALTOPS 23) in Tallinn, Estonia, June 4, 2023.
This premier maritime-focused annual exercise in the Baltic Region takes place June 4-16 and provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen the combined response capability critical to preserving the freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.
“Fresh from the completion of exercise Formidable Shield 23, and concurrent with Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group operations in the North Atlantic, BALTOPS 23 commences as a tangible indication of commitment to collective defense capability across the NATO Alliance," said Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet. "We continue to meet the security challenges of today, and prepare for tomorrow, through interoperability and seamless integration in real world operations. Rising above these challenges takes teamwork and trust. Also, we welcome Finland’s participation in BALTOPS as a NATO Ally for the first time in 52 years of BALTOPS history, which reflects our dedication to improving security and stability in Europe.”
Participating nations include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Of note, though Finland has routinely participated in past iterations, this year marks the first time Finland will participate in the exercise as a member of the NATO Alliance. BALTOPS remains an alliance proving ground, and is vital for honing the leading edge of combined interoperability with ally in partner nations, in and around the Baltic Sea.
These countries will exercise a myriad of capabilities, demonstrating the inherent flexibility of maritime forces. Exercise scenarios include amphibious, gunnery, anti-submarine, air defense and mine clearance operations, as well as explosive ordnance disposal, unmanned underwater and surface vehicle exercises, and medical responses.
While the exercise is led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet, it will be command-and-controlled by STRIKFORNATO, headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal. STRIKFORNATO’s headquarters will host a large multinational coalition of liaison officers from each participating nation, working together and bringing unique personal and national strengths to the exercise’s control hub.
Rear Adm. James Morley, STRIKFORNATO deputy commander, will command the exercise control group.
“BALTOPS remains the most significant annual exercise in the Baltic Sea and is a tremendous opportunity for allied and partner nations to train together – building trust across the air, land and sea forces while improving interoperability,” Morley said. “This year’s BALTOPS is no exception, as we continue building our list of firsts including using U.S. logistics capability to reload a dummy missile on a Danish frigate on Bornholm Island; integrating unmanned surface vehicles to conduct personnel recovery and medical transfers; and a more robust incorporation of Allied chaplaincy into the scenario to spiritually care for or most important assets, our people. Thousands of hours have gone into creating an exercise that not only builds the tactical skills of all participants, but also serves to assure those in the region that NATO stands ready to defend.”
This year’s exercise features, for the first time, robust training in personnel recovery using unmanned surface vehicles. Another enhancement to BALTOPS 23 is the collaboration of 16 chaplains representing three different faith/life stance traditions from eight participating nations. Their focus is to promote the strength of spirit that enables Sailors and Marines to accomplish the mission with honor. These additions – along with others in underwater and space domains, will build on last year’s BALTOPS 2022 scenario story lines, including the integration of the NATO Space Center for space domain scenarios.
For over 80 years, NAVEUR-NAVAF forged strategic relationships with our Allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility. SIXTHFLT is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.
STRIKFORNATO is Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s premier, rapidly deployable and flexible, maritime power projection headquarters, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations.