Nineteen NATO countries and NATO partners Sweden held the large-scale naval exercise in Kiel on 16 June 2023 Baltic Operations 2023 finished.

50 warships, more than 45 aircraft and 6,000 soldiers were involved in the regional naval maneuver. The participating countries were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom. For Finland, BALTOPS was an important milestone because it was the first time it was a NATO ally.

“After two weeks of intensive, combined operations throughout the Baltic Sea region, we have grown as a team by operating as a team,” says Vice Admiral Thomas E. Ishee, commander of the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and the 6.

United States-Fleet. “BALTOPS 23 has served its purpose by demonstrating our collective defense capability and proving that NATO’s maritime readiness is stronger than ever. Our strength is based on the mutual trust between allies and partners that we build in operations and exercises such as BALTOPS 23.”

When the exercise reached its climax on June 14, Germany was celebrating the 175th anniversary of its navy. As an important ally within both BALTOPS and NATO, Germany contributed significantly to the success of this year’s exercise. Shortly after the start of the large-scale exercise, the flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (Standing NATO Maritime Group 1), the German frigate “Mecklenburg-Vorpommern”, led by Flotilla Admiral Thorsten Marx, received German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on board. This underscored the international scope of BALTOPS 23 and NATO’s complex defense capabilities available to all participating states.

“The role of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 during the BALTOPS exercise was basically no different from what it was in reality,” Marx explains. “As part of NATO’s spearhead, we are a maritime rapid task force. During BALTOPS, this association trains its ability to react flexibly to security policy developments.”

The participation of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1, as well as the Mine Countermeasures Association Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1, to BALTOPS takes place on a regular basis, provided that the permanent task forces are not tied up in other operations. In addition, the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 or the task Group 441.01 under Marx’s leadership, BALTOPS was reinforced by further units. For the German admiral, this offered an important advantage: “The intensive training and exercise program has allowed me and my unit to cover a wide range of tasks, ranging from contributing to the protection of maritime infrastructure to reinsurance and maritime deterrence measures to defending NATO alliance territory. This improves our ability to react to situations almost instantaneously.”

On land, international teams practiced explosive ordnance disposal. They exchanged tactics and national capabilities for bomb disposal and remotely defusing explosive devices. Separately, land and sea-based mine countermeasures teams honed their skills in clearing unexploded mines from past wars. They used BALTOPS 23 as a training opportunity and to eliminate real dangers in the Baltic Sea.

At sea, the ships also practiced fighting submarines, firing with guns and air defense. The highlight was combined amphibious landing operations in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with American, British, Romanian, Italian, Polish and Lithuanian troops. The notable warships of these exercises included the Swedish submarine HSwMS “Uppland”, as well as the British dock landing ship HMS “Albion” and the Italian dock landing ship ITS San Marco.

One of the most important aspects of the exercise this year was the effective use of surface and underwater unmanned vehicles. As on previous occasions, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) were deployed throughout the Baltic Sea to test and evaluate the latest advances in minehunting technology and seabed mapping. The deployment of the UUVs has shown that they can provide a comprehensive picture of underwater topography and enhance the operational capabilities of NATO mine countermeasures teams.

The Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs), which were used for the first time at BALTOPS, were used, among other things, to train the joint recovery of personnel. The teams used the UPSs for patient transport between ships and for direct at-sea salvage and rescue operations.

During the stay in the environment of one of the most dynamic waterways in the world, the longitudinal connection through the Baltic Sea from Ă–resund to the Gulf of Finland, the training in BALTOPS 23 included additional topics. The USUnited States Space Force and other national space agencies evaluated warship commanders’ decision-making ability when faced with unique, space-based obstacles. The experts simulated complications such as solar flares and enemy actions. Commanders were then faced with the task of responding to interference from space weather and limited GPS Global Positioning System accuracy.