Over a dozen NATO warships have entered the Baltic Sea, ahead of the major international NATO BALTOPS annual exercise. The ships, which number at least 15 and include the USS Fort McHenry, a dock landing ship, entered the Baltic on Thursday via the Storebælt and the Kiel Canal, BNS reports.
BALTOPS 2019 runs from June 9-21 and is under the command of the newly reestablished US Navy Second Fleet. The USS Mount Whitney, an amphibious command ship which has been in the Baltic since May, provides the command base, it is reported.
The USS Mount Whitney visited Tallinn in 2016.
Eighteen NATO member states and alliance partners are involved in the exercise, bringing 44 warships and 40 aircraft and helicopters and 12,000 personnel.
Amphibious operations and combating surface and sub-surface vessels forces are the main focuses of the exercise, which posits a hypothetical enemy close to the Russian border, it is reported.
The operation adds to NATO Maritime Group 1 stationed in the Baltic since April. The group includes guided missile destroyer the USS Gravely, the HMS Westminster a Type-23 frigate from the U.K.’s Royal Navy, as well as Spanish, Turkish and Polish frigates, BNS reports.
Close to 2,000 U.K. military personnel were to deploy in the Baltic from May, that country’s defense ministry announce in early April.
BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) is an annual military exercise run since 1971 under the auspices of the United States Naval Forces Europe in the Baltic Sea and environs.