Sailors from the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet participated in the final day of a pre-sail conference in Latvia before joining forces from 21 other NATO and ally nations for Baltops 2018 naval exercises.
U.S. sailors from the USS Mount Whitney, USS Bainbridge and USS Oak Hill participated in a ‘culture day’ alongside Romanian Marines embarked on the Polish minelayer-landing ship ORP Krakow on Sunday, June 3, the Sixth Fleet said.
The forces will now sail for the Baltic Sea’s largest naval exercise, which brings together 22 NATO and partner nations to train for air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations.
Exercise Baltic Operations, now in its 46th year, is taking place from June 1-15. The annual joint exercise is designed to improve flexibility and interoperability between the air, maritime and ground forces participating.
This year 5,000 personnel, 43 maritime units, 60 aircraft and amphibious landing forces from Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States are participating, according to the U.S. Navy. Six other nations – Canada, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Slovakia – will contribute staff members.
Live training starts in Klaipedia, Lithuania and ends in Kiel, Germany.
Elsewhere in Luthuania, 18,000 troops from 19 mostly NATO countries began Saber Strike, the annual U.S. Army-led exercises in the Baltic States, on Sunday.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Russia was closely tracking the exercises.
The drills come just two weeks after Exercise Siil in southern Estonia and northern Latvia. Estonia’s 2nd Infantry brigade teamed up with NATO and partner forces against the 1st Infantry Brigade and NATO battlegroup units for battle training involving more than 15,000 troops.