Staff, Stars and Stripes
4 June 2015
NAPLES, Italy – One of the Navy’s largest exercises in Europe is to begin Friday, bringing more than 5,500 troops and dozens of ships and aircraft from 17 nations together in the Baltic Sea.
The annual BALTOPS exercise will focus on interoperability among maritime forces on tasks such as air defense, maritime interdiction and anti-submarine warfare, according to the Navy. Participants are expected to bring 49 ships, 61 aircraft and one submarine.
The exercise will feature an amphibious landing with a combined force of U.S., Finnish and Swedish troops, and it will be led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, known as STRIKFORNATO, the alliance’s maritime battle staff group. The Navy amphibious warship USS San Antonio will also participate in the exercise.
BALTOPS arrives at a time of heightened tensions across the region with expanded Russian air and undersea activity. NATO and European allies have responded by stepping up training across northern Europe in recent weeks, holding exercises in anti-submarine warfare and air combat.
Russia occasionally has responded by holding simultaneous training or exercises for its own forces.
Sweden and Finland are two of the three non-NATO countries participating in this year’s BALTOPS, Georgia being the third. The exercise has been held 42 times in the past, according to the Navy.
STRIKFORNATO is based in Portugal and commanded by Navy Vice Adm. James Foggo III, commander of U.S. 6th Fleet in Naples.