After many years of participation in BALTOPS as a partner nation, this year was Finland's first inclusion as a NATO ally.
BALTOPS 2023 was a great opportunity to continue improving our ability to integrate and operate together with Allies and partners in a swift and effective manner
Now in its 52nd year, the exercise was led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and U.S. Sixth Fleet, command-and-controlled by Strike Force NATO (STRIKFORNATO).
“It was a great honour to have the Finnish Minehunter FNS Katanpää as part of our Task Unit, now as a fully integrated NATO member”, said the Commander of SNMCMG1, Norwegian Navy Commander Ole Torstein Sjo.
More than 45 aircraft, 50 ships and 6,000 personnel took part in BALTOPS 23. Participating nations include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“BALTOPS 2023 was a great opportunity to continue improving our ability to integrate and operate together with Allies and partners in a swift and effective manner,” continued Commander Sjo. “Training in peacetime makes us ready to act and function when called upon in times of crisis or war.”
During the exercise, Cdr Sjo commanded his task group of eight ships from six nations in the fictitious exercise scenario. The ships under his command were Norwegian ships HNoMS Otra and HNoMS Nordkapp, Finnish ship FNS Katanpää, French ship FS Sagittaire, German ship FGS Rottweil, Estonian ship ENS Sakala, and Netherlands‘ HNLMS Vlaardingen and HNLMS Makkum.
The purpose of mine countermeasures (MCM) is to sweep, hunt, identify and neutralise underwater mines to ensure freedom of movement, freedom of navigation and to ensure vital sea lines of communication remain open. Worldwide Navies employ MCM procedures, ships, and technology to clear lanes for ships to access strategic waterways.
Such scenarios were practised during BALTOPS 23, where the clearing of historic ordnance littering the bottom of the Baltic Sea also delivered important training with a simultaneous real-world positive effect.
“The Baltic Sea is of high importance related to regional prosperity and security for the surrounding nations,” said Cdr Sjo. “Throughout the exercise we showed that in an unpredictable world, Allies and partners stand together to protect the values, territory and people in the Baltic Sea.”
The exercise enhanced flexibility and interoperability among allies and partners, strengthening combined response capabilities, and demonstrating Allied resolve to defend against any potential threat.