A major air defense exercise involving fighter jets from three different nations was commanded from Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) flagship HMS Duncan within the framework of NATO vigilance activity Neptune Strike 23-2.

A total of four ships from Greece, Turkey and the UK seamlessly integrated into a defensive multi-national NATO force, whilst the fighter jets fulfilled the roles of both friendly and hostile forces. This created a realistic and challenging operational scenario for the task group. The combined force of fighter jets included Hellenic Air Force F16s, Turkish Air Force F16s, and Royal Air Force Typhoons, whilst a Royal Air Force Voyager provided air-to-air refueling.

The exercise enabled the task group, and its multi-national staff, to test their tactics, techniques and procedures in the provision of integrated air-defense and anti-air warfare. The Hellenic frigate HS Limnos, the Turkish frigates TCG Gokceada and TCG Goksu, and HMS Duncan (a British Royal Navy destroyer) were able to demonstrate their capability and interoperability, proving they are ready to defend themselves and the task group from real-world airborne threats.

NATO’s common operating procedures enables the coordination of multi-national air assets in this way, and deepens the understanding that exists between the allied nations, allowing them to act as a unified and coherent force.

The Commander of SNMG2, Royal Navy Commodore Paul Stroude, said, “bringing this number of military assets together to operate seamlessly is an impressive demonstration of the strength that comes from combining individual national capabilities into a far greater, integrated, and effective, multi-national force.”

The air defense exercise was part of a larger period of NATO-led vigilance activity, known as Neptune Strike. It is led by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), which is a deployable and scalable headquarters designed to command high-end strike capabilities such as aircraft carrier and amphibious task groups. Neptune Strike focuses on the ability to integrate such task groups into a dynamic, flexible NATO command structure.

During the exercise, the US Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Garibaldi were brought under NATO command. Escorting and protecting ships such as these is one of the core tasks of SNMG2, hence for Neptune Strike 23-2 the anti-submarine warfare frigates ITS Carabiniere and FS Languedoc were detached from SNMG2, to form part of the defensive shield surrounding the two aircraft carriers.

Recognising the vital importance of such activity, Cdre Stroude said, “Neptune Strike offered SNMG2 an invaluable opportunity to work with STRIKFORNATO, allied carrier strike groups and allied air forces to undertake complex, dynamic, short-notice activity to demonstrate and reinforce our interoperability. This leaves us well placed to continue our mission of reassurance and deterrence across the Mediterranean.”

Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two (SNMCMG2) also participated in Exercise Neptune Strike-23-2 off the Augusta coast of Italy on 11 July 23.

Italian flagship ITS Stromboli and Italian minehunter ITS Viareggio interacted with CTF65 and CTF63 units USS Paul Ignatius and USS Leroy Grumman. The SNMCMG2 ships cleared a path providing safe passage to the ships following behind, via guidance operations.

The Commander of SNMCMG2, Italian Captain Ettore Ronco, said this “lead through” scenario was well planned and executed by the crew of guide minehunter ITS Viaregio.

“The serial gave participants the opportunity to improve maneuvering capabilities within a thin isle and follow ITS Viareggio with accuracy and stealth,” he said. “SNMCMG2 completed this interaction with very successful results, increasing our level of readiness.”

SNMCMG2 is one of four standing forces that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations, additional forces can be added to this group, with the NATO command staff on board the Flagship, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations.

SNMG2 is a multinational integrated task group that projects a constant and visible reminder of the Alliance’s solidarity and cohesion afloat. This continuous maritime capability performs a wide range of tasks, including exercises and real-world operations in periods of crisis and conflict.

SNMG2 is one of four Standing Naval Forces that operate under NATO Allied Maritime Command, headquartered in Northwood, United Kingdom.