Sixteen NATO allies and partners formally ended their two-week major naval exercise in Kiel on June 17 . Two weeks of intensive training lay behind them. Only 50 weeks remain until Baltic Operations 2023.
“BALTOPS 2022, with its high level of complexity, has tested our collective readiness and adaptability,” said Vice Admiral Eugene Black, commander of the 6th US Fleet and the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO ( STRIKFORNATO), at the final press conference of the major maneuver at the Kiel-Wik naval base. “It also underscored the strength of our alliance and our determination to ensure free navigation for all.”
This was supplemented by German Vice Admiral Frank Lenski, Deputy Inspector of the Navy. Against the background of Russia’s war against Ukraine, he warned: “We must be vigilant, ready to defend ourselves at any time. Looking to our friends and allies in the Baltics, Finland, Poland and Sweden, we stand here for NATO’s promise: ‘One for all – all for one.’”
Lenski therefore expressly welcomed the ongoing commitment of the American naval forces in Europe. “Our ties to the United States Navy are strong and will remain so,” said the admiral. They would be needed because today practically the entire Baltic Sea is part of NATO’s northern flank. “In the event of a defense, the troop and material reinforcements reach our allies in the eastern Baltic via this ‘wet flank’.”
So the Allies would have to demonstrate their ability to defend themselves here as well. “BALTOPS served precisely this credible deterrent,” Lenski said, “and I have the impression that all the navies involved have impressively demonstrated what we are capable of together.”
This was reflected in the range of different maritime weapon systems and the enormous range of exercise scenarios during the maneuver – the complexity addressed by Admiral Black. The 47 ships, 89 aircraft and 7,000 soldiers involved in BALTOPS 2022 came from 16 different countries. Especially for ship crews, hundreds of sub-exercises, called serials , sometimes resulted in a 100-hour week. The purpose: to train under conditions as realistic as possible and therefore around the clock.
Nations participating in BALTOPS 2022: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, USA
Sweden’s armed forces provided significant support for the large-scale maneuver. They organized the big pre-sail conference in Stockholm before leaving for the maneuver. They then enabled many individual exercises on and over Swedish territory. In particular, the island of Gotland served as a training ground for several air force sorties and amphibious landings by the helicopter carrier USS Kearsarge and the landing ship USS Gunston Hall.