By Mass Communications Specialist Chief Petty Officer Heidi Cheek, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Public Affairs
Service members from 11 nations participated in the exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 22) at the Swedish Naval Warfare Centre in Ravlunda, Sweden, June 5-17.
BALTOPS 22 was conducted primarily at-sea with some elements conducted ashore, such as amphibious operations and logistics. The BALTOPS Mine Countermeasures Task Group (MCM TG) served as command and control in Ravlunda, facilitating training for the task units in mine countermeasures operations.
Service members from participating nations exercised a myriad of capabilities, such as explosive ordinance disposal (EOD), amphibious landing, and mine clearance. Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 8 (EODMU 8), deployed out of Rota, Spain, led a team of approximately 190 personnel from five different nations, providing scenarios in which participants were evaluated as they searched for, exploited, or disposed of mines both underwater and ashore.
In Ravlunda, other MCM TG personnel coordinated multinational ships at sea to facilitate small boat and diving operations. To assist in searching for mines, service members employed the use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) that travel underwater with a pre-programmed course. The AUVs use sonar to search the sea floor for objects, which divers later inspect and identify for possible mine neutralization and recovery. Experimentation on new types of unmanned underwater vehicles were also tested off the coast of Bornholm Island, Denmark during the exercise.
“The use of these modern systems from different countries is the future for mine countermeasures,” said Royal Netherlands Navy Commander Peter Baars, chief of staff of the MCM TG during BALTOPS 22. “The cooperation of all the different countries working together is what makes the team so successful during BALTOPS 22.”
Joint training with Ally and partner nations also included EOD surface scenarios. The training included forensics to study how explosive devices operate with the goal of quickly and efficiently updating battlefield commanders and sharing across participating nations.
Unique to BALTOPS 22 was Sweden’s role in hosting several training events, to include the training at Ravlunda. The entire exercise involved participation from 16 nations. The 14 NATO Ally and 2 partner nations provided over 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft, and 7,000 personnel.
“Sweden was a great host and proved to be a continued outstanding partner with the professionalism and enthusiasm we have come to expect from our teammates in this theater,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Sam Brasfield, Commander of the MCM TG. “We look to continue our collaboration with them going forward.”
BALTOPS, which began in 1972 and is now in its 51st iteration, continues to be an excellent opportunity for NATO and regional partners to strengthen interoperability through a series of combined tactical maneuvers and scenarios.
BALTOPS 22 is the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region. The exercise, led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, and executed by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen the combined response capability critical to preserving the freedom of navigation and security in the Baltic Sea.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with our Allies and Partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.