By Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center Public Affairs
The Navy’s deployable Mine Warfare Battle staff proceeded from San Diego to Klaipeda, Lithuania and participated in Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2018. Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) also serves as the Navy’s Global Mine Warfare Commander, supported by SMWDC’s Mine Warfare (MIW) Division.
SMWDC’s MIW Division is homeported at Naval Base Point Loma - Harbor Drive Annex. In addition to supporting SMWDC’s four lines of operation, it maintains a deployable operational staff that provides direct reach back support to the Fleet, in addition to fly-away support to MIW mission areas worldwide.
BALTOPS is an annual joint, multinational maritime-focused exercise, designed to provide training opportunities that increase flexibility and interoperability among participating nations. BALTOPS 2018 offered high end training for allies and partners across the region in order to reassure and demonstrate NATO's long-term commitment to security in the Baltic Region. The exercise included mine clearance operations in advance of amphibious landings, along Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and shipping lanes, and on approaches to ports and harbors.
Participating nations in BALTOPS include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. A total of 43 maritime units, more than 60 aircraft, and a combined amphibious landing force also participated in BALTOPS 2018.
"BALTOPS is a great opportunity for us to rehearse mine countermeasure operations with our partners and NATO allies, sharing practical hands-on training, identifying and mitigating mine warfighting challenges, and developing a greater understanding of the unique capabilities we all bring to the team," said Capt. Christopher Merwin, division director, SMWDC MIW Division. "Training opportunities like this give us an advantage in real-world mine countermeasure operations because of the interoperability developed through learning, planning and operating as a coalition during these exercises."
BALTOPS 18 incorporated maritime, ground, and air forces to strengthen combined response capabilities necessary to ensure regional stability. Demonstrating new capabilities, Commander, Sixth Fleet utilized USNS Carson City (T-EPF 7) as the command and control ship with Rota-based CTF 68 and San Diego-based Mine Countermeasures Division (MCMDIV) 31 embarked.
Aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) for BALTOPS, MIW led the Mine Countermeasure (MCM) line of effort, nearly half of the participating ships and six drones from 11 countries, as part of MCM Task Group. Normally MIW serves as the theater Mine Warfare Commander (MIWC) with operational control of assigned surface, air, or other MIW units, however, during BALTOPS, Task Units/Groups are led by Standing NATO Mine Countermeasure Group One (SNMCMG 1), Baltic MCM Squadron (BALTRON), and a consolidated staff of CTF 68 and MCMDIV 31.
SMWDC’s Mine Warfare (MIW) Division is one of four SMWDC Divisions located in Virginia and California focused on MIW, Amphibious Warfare (AMW), Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), and Anti-Submarine Warfare/Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW). SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and exists to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains.