By Cmdr. Ian Midgley, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
Three U.S. Navy Ships arrived in Kiel, Germany following the conclusion of BALTOPS 50, June 17, 2021.
Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) and USS Thomas Hudner (DDG 161) arrived in the German Naval Base after working with 18 nations and more than 40 ships, 60 aircraft and 4,000 servicemembers during the 50th exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS).
“Every BALTOPS we increase our capabilities as an Alliance, maintaining an asymmetric advantage,” said Capt. David “Crusty” Pollard, commanding officer of Mount Whitney. “Our logistics stop in Kiel enables continued presence in the Baltic and reinforces the bonds we build at sea.”
While in port, Mount Whitney will host the German head of Navy, Vice Adm. Kay-Achim Schönbach, during his meeting with Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet and commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO.
Following the meeting, Standing NATO Mine Countermeasure Group 1 (SNMCMG1) will conduct an operational hand over from Dutch Cmdr. Jan Wijchers to U.S. Capt. Sam Brasfield. This is the first time the U.S. will lead one of the four standing NATO groups, demonstrating resolve and commitment in supporting NATO.
Prior to Kiel, Thomas Hudner integrated with Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 during BALTOPS 50. Together, the international maritime group worked with SNMCMG1 to secure Sea Lanes of Communication and ensure freedom of navigation through the Danish Straits, while Roosevelt roleplayed an opposing naval force as part of the BALTOPS 50 scenario.
During BALTOPS 50, Mount Whitney provided at-sea communications infrastructure and command and control capabilities to the exercise scenario. For the first time, an Italian F-35 integrated into the Link communication system, increasing Allied synergy between the air and maritime domains. Mount Whitney also hosted The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and ESG-2 commanders embarked USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) to command and control the exercise’s amphibious forces, developing and enacting modern Allied amphibious warfare tactics.
16 NATO and two partner nations participated in BALTOPS 50, bringing together more than 40 ships, 60 aircraft, and over 4,000 personnel. With two standing NATO maritime groups, the exercise reinforces NATO’s commitment to regional security, reducing the chance of conflict in the Baltic Sea region.