USS Oak Hill Completes BALTOPS 2018

Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018 came to a close June 15 after two weeks of successful training as the participants arrive in Kiel, Germany, for Kiel Week 2018.

BALTOPS is an annual, multinational exercise to enhance maritime capabilities, interoperability and support regional stability. This year’s BALTOPS, the 46th iteration since 1971’s inaugural exercise, saw the participation of over 20 countries including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO.

The Harpers Ferry-class amphibious landing ship Oak Hill is one of three U.S. ships visiting Kiel following their participation in BALTOPS.

“Oak Hill was the centerpiece of the amphibious warfare part of the exercise, and we landed Marines on two separate beaches in two different countries,” said Capt. Brian J. Finman, deputy commodore of Amphibious Squadron 4. “We put four M1A1 Abrams tanks ashore, and we shot over 200 loads of ammunition. All of those things are unique and different from even the most recent years of BALTOPS.”

During the two-week BALTOPS exercise, over 100 drills in surface, subsurface, air defense, mine countermeasures, maritime interdictions, and joint personnel recovery were completed among the 43 maritime units, 60 aircraft, and approximately 5,000 maritime, ground and air force personnel.

“These navies come together and exercise for 10 days to practice rapid aggregation of forces in a fictitious scenario which will ensure in a time of crisis they know how to respond,” said Finman.

Although the at-sea portion of the exercise concluded with the force’s arrival in Kiel, exercise participants will convene for a post-sail conference upon arrival. This final event provides an opportunity for planners and participants to collect feedback that will ensure continued success of the largest, multinational naval exercise in the Baltic region.

Kiel Week is an annual maritime festival event held in Kiel, Germany and is the largest event of its type in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. While in Kiel, Sailors will participate in Kiel Week events with many of our NATO allies and partners, strengthening our enduring relationships throughout the North Atlantic and European region.

Oak Hill is deployed in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations conducting naval operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa to enhance capability and interoperability with our allies and partners in the region.

The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group embarks the 26th MEU and includes the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Team 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of commander, Amphibious Squadron 4.