Thousands of U.S., allied and partner service members honed their skills and strengthened bonds through a full slate of spring and summer exercises held throughout U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) since May.
“Training alongside our Allies and partners builds the collective readiness and interoperability of the NATO Alliance,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jessica Meyeraan, director for U.S. European Command’s exercises and assessments division. “The capabilities generated through our training ensures that we are postured and ready to deter aggression when needed.”
As the first half of the year concludes, multiple exercises like the 50th iteration of the annual Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 50), developed cooperation in all domains of modern warfare and better prepared countries to work cohesively in a common defense.
The BALTOPS exercise, which concluded June 18, brought together 4,000 personnel from 18 NATO Allies and partner nations for live-training at sea. The exercise included combat enhancing and force integration training, and incorporated defensive cyber warfare tactics, techniques and procedures. Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) exercised event command and control from its headquarters in Oeiras, Portugal.
“BALTOPS stands as the keystone of our exercise season, demonstrating half a century of the unwavering commitment of our partners and Allies,” said U.S. Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. “Lessons learned in BALTOPS enable international strike group operations, advanced missile defense capabilities and seamless surface action group missions.”
BALTOPS complemented DEFENDER-Europe 21 (DE21), an exercise that enhanced strategic readiness, Alliance security and other skills that NATO Allies need to prevent conflict, preserve peace and keep our nations safe. Including its linked exercises, DE21 was the largest exercise conducted in Europe this year and concluded June 13 with a 2,000 personnel command post exercise. The U.S. Army-led DE21 included 28,000 U.S., allied and partner forces from 27 nations and provided training across air, sea, land and cyber domains in more than a dozen nations. This training displayed U.S. Army Europe and Africa’s ability to command multinational land forces while maintaining real-world operations across 104 countries. On DE21’s conclusion, U.S.-based forces and equipment returned to their home stations.
Similarly, At-Sea Demo/Formidable Shield (ASD/FS) concluded its multi-domain event on June 2. The U.S. Sixth Fleet led and STRIKFORNATO conducted live-fire integrated air and missile defense exercise included 16 ships, 31 aircraft and approximately 3,300 personnel from 10 NATO nations.
While ground and maritime events played a key role in training, air forces across Europe also accomplished numerous training objectives as exemplified by the Italian Air Force-led exercise Falcon Strike 21 (FS21) at Amendola Air Base, Italy. The multinational training exercise helped develop capabilities in planning and conducting complex air operations in a joint force environment. Providing the opportunity for aircrews to plan, brief, fly and debrief, the exercise sharpened the skills of approximately 600 participants. FS21 improved collaboration between participants from Israel, Italy, the United Kingdom and the U.S. resulting in better cooperation in F-35 logistics and expeditionary fields and more efficient coordination between allied and partner air forces.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, flagship of U.K. Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21), which is deployed with 10 F-35B aircraft from U.S. Marine Corps Fighter Attack Squadron 211, participated in NATO’s Steadfast Defender 2021 exercise and recently provided support to Operation Inherent Resolve from the East Mediterranean Sea. CSG 21, which also includes a Dutch frigate, an American Navy destroyer, will travel approximately 26,000 miles over the next 25 weeks. This voyage is yet another effort to strengthen solidarity and unity within the Alliance.
“Together, our aim is to learn from one another how best to harness the full potential of these enormously powerful aircraft and apply their advanced capabilities to an increasingly complex and contested battle space,” said Royal Navy Captain James Blackmore, CSG 21 commander.
Multi-lateral support also enhanced readiness during Arctic Challenge Exercise 21, involving the Nordic countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden. Led by the Norwegian Air Force Aircraft with aircraft from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and U.S., the exercise consisted of offensive and defensive scenarios focused on air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. The training exercised the ability to plan, execute and evaluate large force employments in multinational air operations, while conveying a strong message of readiness, agility and interoperability.
Demonstrating readiness to support the collective defense with Allies and partners, the most recent U.S. Air Force Bomber Task Force mission was conducted by strategic bombers in the Baltic Sea integrated with aircraft from Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet assets.
While in the Mediterranean, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 116) recently joined French Navy Charles de Gaulle Strike Group (CDG CSG). Providing multi-warfare defense to the strike group in support of joint operations and interoperability training, these combined operations occurred as French and U.S. service members commemorated the 77th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, in Normandy.
Through these numerous enhanced training opportunities, USEUCOM continued to build upon the already strong and strategic partnerships with our NATO Allies and partners.
U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) is responsible for U.S. military operations across Europe, portions of Asia and the Middle East, the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean. USEUCOM is comprised of more than 64,000 military and civilian personnel and works closely with NATO Allies and partners. The command is one of two U.S. forward-deployed geographic combatant commands headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. For more information about USEUCOM, visit https://www.eucom.mil.