A Royal Navy warship is leading a US Navy task force during the largest joint military exercises in the Baltic this year.
HMS Defender is serving as the flagship of Task Force Six Four (CTF 64) of the US Sixth Fleet, which deals in defending against attacks by missiles and fighter jets.
The Type 45 destroyer has powerful, cutting-edge sensors and Sea Viper missiles that counter threats and can knock moving targets out of the sky from up to 70 miles away, making her well-suited to duties at the spearhead of the specialist task group.
CTF 64 commander, Commodore Jonathan Lipps of the US Navy, and his staff are on board Defender to command the group, which is made up of American, Swedish, Finnish and Lithuanian warships, as BALTOPS 22 begins.
The exercises involve 47 ships, 75 aircraft and around 7,000 military personnel from 16 nations and tests the ability of NATO and its partner nations to safeguard the region and maintain freedom and security of sea lanes.
HMS Defender’s Commanding Officer, Commander George Storton, said: “It is an honor to have an opportunity to work with allies and partners during BALTOPS.
“In the last 12 months HMS Defender has conducted global operations highlighting our readiness to work with international partners from the South China Sea to the Arctic.
“BALTOPS allows us to build on the firm foundation of strategic relationships and to further develop and demonstrate the ability for our ships and sailors to operate in a multi-threat environment while affirming our commitment to NATO and key alliances.
“Defender is a world leading air defense ship and will represent the Royal Navy with pride and dedication throughout the exercise highlighting the UK’s continued commitment to maritime alliances and operations.”
Defender leads the US Navy’s USS Porter and USNS William McLean, Sweden’s HSwMS Nykoping and HSwMS Helsingborg, plus Lithuania’s LNS Dzūkas and Finland’s FNS Uusimaa in her CTF 64 role.
NATO partner Sweden hosts the 50th edition of BALTOPS to coincide with the 500th anniversary of their navy.
The work out includes exercises in amphibious warfare, gunnery, anti-air, anti-submarine, mine hunting and explosive ordnance disposal, dealing with mass casualties and working with drones and other unmanned vehicles.
The naval elements of BALTOPS gathered in Stockholm before heading into the Baltic and sailing in formation at the start of ten days of exercises.
“Working alongside our allies allows us to learn from each other and integrate faster in the future,” Defender’s air warfare officer, Lieutenant Commander Martyn Harris.
“Our presence demonstrates the commitments of the UK to the security and stability of the Baltic Region and safety of our allies and neighbors.”
HMS Defender comes fresh into BALTOPS after intensive exercises as the lead warship of a Joint Expeditionary Force task group.
The force – made up of Lithuanian, Latvian, Finnish, Estonian, Finnish and Norwegian ships – were swarmed by P2000 boats of the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces Squadron during their work out.
The exercises were designed to test the allied force’s reactions to fast attack craft coming from all angles and improve their ability to work seamlessly together.
Ahead of BALTOPS, Defender headed to Stockholm, where the ship marked the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, welcoming the British ambassador to Sweden and Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Andrew Burns, who awarded jubilee medals to the ship’s company.