By Lt. j.g. Christian Daniels, Patrol Squadron FOUR Public Affairs
Patrol Squadron (VP) FOUR, alongside maritime forces from eighteen nations, recently participated in Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) off the coast of Denmark.
Held annually since 1972, BALTOPS is the premier maritime-led exercise in the Baltic Sea region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe. BALTOPS 50 hosted 16 NATO countries and two partner nations providing high-end training across the entire spectrum of naval warfare.
In total, approximately 4,000 personnel, 40 maritime units, and 60 aircraft participated in the training exercise. The participating nations alongside the U.S. included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the U.K.
“BALTOPS is now in its 50th year since commencement and has played a vital role in continuing NATO partnerships while focusing on delivering a more integrated defense capability,” said Cdr. Gregory Hinkle, VP-4 commanding officer. “VP-4’s participation in the largest multinational exercise in the Baltic Sea has further enhanced cooperation between multi-platform operations as well as continued peace and stability in the region.”
VP-4 supported BALTOPS with three P-8A Poseidon aircraft while flying 8 missions totaling over 32 hours of on-station training with NATO and partner forces. Combat aircrews flew a diverse set of missions but their primary focus was Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW). Additionally, the VP-4 aircrews supported maritime operations in critical chokepoints, ensuring access and freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea.
“BALTOPS provided our entire squadron a fantastic training opportunity from the aircrews to the maintenance personnel on the ground,” said Lt. Deven Bolding, VP-4 BALTOPS Action Officer. “Having the opportunity to work with our NATO partners in combined operations continually enhances VP-4’s warfighting skills by focusing on ASW and ASuW in complex environments.”
VP-4 is currently assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 67 and is deployed to the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility. CTF 67 is composed of land-based maritime patrol aircraft that operate over the waters of the Mediterranean and North Atlantic conducting anti-submarine, reconnaissance, surveillance, and search and rescue missions.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/C6F, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.