Royal Navy warships complete NATO mission in the Baltic Sea
Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender provided the firepower and leading-edge technology, while six of the smallest craft in the Royal Navy’s inventory – Archer, Charger, Explorer, Exploit, Ranger and Smiter – provided the speed, agility and numbers to swarm around participants in Baltops 22, which involved 47 warships from 16 nations, including Sweden and Finland.
More than 7,000 military personnel were put through their paces in operational training across 13 days designed to forge closer bonds between NATO allies and partners and protect the security and prosperity of the Baltic and its nations.
The NATO ships and around 90 aircraft – the most ever on Baltops – pitted their wits against each-other in testing warfare scenarios, battling threats beneath, on and above the waves.
The six P2000 patrol ships were used to swarm around groups of much larger warships, emulating an assault by small attack craft, while a Swedish submarine lurked under the surface and was hunted and hunter for the anti-submarine warfare phase of the exercises.
“It was a privilege to act as a flagship for Baltops 22 and highlights the importance that the Royal Navy places on working with allies and partners in the Baltic Sea,” said HMS Defender’s Commanding Officer, Commander George Storton.
“As a state of the art Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Defender has a well established reputation for delivering global operations. This period, once again, proves the professionalism, dedication and readiness of Defender’s ship’s company.”
For the first time, the Baltops task group carried out a mass casualty evacuation. Actors with fake injuries added to the realism as the allied forces worked together to help the ‘wounded’.
HMS Defender was involved in anti-submarine warfare exercises but also operated in her main role in air defence, including leading Task Force Six Four (CTF 64) of the US Sixth Fleet, which deals in defending against attacks by missiles and fighter jets.
The Type 45 destroyer has powerful, cutting-edge sensors and Sea Viper missiles that counter threats and can knock moving targets out of the sky from up to 70 miles away, making her well-suited to duties at the spearhead of the specialist task group.
CTF 64 commander, Commodore Jonathan Lipps of the US Navy, and his staff were on board Defender to command the group, which was made up of American, Swedish, Finnish and Lithuanian warships.
Cdre Lipps said: “Train as you mean to fight couldn’t be a more apt dogma as we mixed the exercise with the real picture.
“The task group conducted multiple air defence exercises utilising Defender’s state of the art radar system, and tracked live assets while we Replenished At Sea with USNS Patuxent.”
Lieutenant Commander Tom Parsons, HMS Defender’s Principal Warfare Officer, added: “HMS Defender is the epitome of this multi-national exercise; not only do we have the US Battlestaff embarked, but we have two Swedish Officers experiencing how the Royal Navy and NATO deliver operations and exercises: a truly joint mission.”
Warships from NATO partners, Finland and Sweden, were for the first time in control of ships in a NATO task group, leading the way during mock battles against surface and underwater threats.
The 51st Baltops exercises also coincided with the 500th anniversary of Sweden’s Navy and, to mark this milestone, the Swedish hosted the pre-sail conference in Stockholm.
Once Baltops wrapped up, HMS Defender and the six P2000 patrol ships headed to Kiel, Germany.
Participating nations included Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.