KAUNAS - On June 11 for the first time in the history of Lithuania the allied forces conducted a naval landing operation on the Lithuanian seacoast as part of the multinational exercise BALTOPS 2012. The operation included air and naval assets and military personnel from seven NATO members - Lithuania, Estonia, U.S.A., Latvia, Poland, the Netherlands and Germany.
“This large-scale multinational exercise once again demonstrates that the people of Lithuania are not on their own, and NATO membership is assuming a full-fledged character,” said Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene. “It is crucial that Lithuanian troops, in collaboration with other allies and partners, can improve interoperability and mutual understanding via training for crisis situations feasible in the Baltic region,” writes the Defense Ministry’s Web site.
Storming the beach
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was on hand to observe the multinational exercise in Nemirseta (Klaipeda district), reports ELTA.
The exercise aims, through the sea landing maneuvers, to prepare the forces to defend against, and defeat foreign threats, to strengthen cooperation if a critical situation in the region occurs, and ensure security of the Baltic region. The exercises were attended by over 700 soldiers and deemed a success.
The exercise was planned under a fictitious scenario: a crisis strikes a country called Arcadia and unrest affects the entire region of the Blue Sea. The United Nations Council mandates an operation aimed at an embargo on arms movement, blockade of piracy, stabilization operation in Arcadia and assistance in counter-terrorism actions. International security forces are deployed in the Blue Sea Region, writes the Baltic Course.
Grybauskaite called the BALTOPS 2012 exercises concrete proof that the states are sticking to the provisions that came into force during the NATO Summits in Lisbon and Chicago for ensuring defense by means of regular training, exercises and defense plans.
“This year many decisions concerning the state’s security have been made: the NATO air policing mission has been prolonged, collective defense guarantees have been ensured and means to implement defense plans have been approved. In order to make these decisions really work, we have to know how to use them,” Grybauskaite said.
The exercise is an introduction to the NATO exercise Steadfast Jazz 2013, which is to take place in the Baltic States and Poland next year and contribute to the NATO troops’ capacity to be able to operate in any territory of the Alliance.
“As a host country of the exercise, we not only take the challenge to render expedient Host Nation Support for the allied forces deployed in the exercise, but also to receive an opportunity to combine our capabilities,” said Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Arvydas Pocius on the significance of the exercise.
“I anticipate that all the Lithuanian military, from OFs to ORs who were involved in the planning and completion of the exercise, have drawn invaluable experience, while the Lithuanian people will feel proud to see that Lithuania is a full-fledged member of the international community responsible for security in the region.”
In addition to Grybauskaite, additional guests included members of the parliament;
Deputy Commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), Rear Admiral Russ Harding; Rear Admiral Ann Claire Phillips, Commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group Two; Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig; foreign ambassadors in Lithuania and high-ranking Lithuanian and foreign officers.
According to the scenario of the landing operation in Nemirseta, personnel of the Combat Divers Service of the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Diving Unit of the Lithuanian Navy conducted exercises together with personnel of the Diving and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group of the Royal Netherlands Navy.
The Reconnaissance Unit of the Motorized Infantry Brigade “Iron Wolf” rope-landed from two Lithuanian Air Force Mi-8 helicopters to ensure security on the Baltic coastline.
The U.S. Marine Corps Black Sea Rotational Force, a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force based in Constanta, Romania, was assigned the key task for the sea landing maneuvers, conducted collectively with the units of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
Task Force 62, formed by the Special Purpose U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit, from the 6th Fleet of the U.S. Navy, commanded the American troops. The Force comprises approximately 1,900 members and is supported by tanks, artillery, and transport helicopters.
It can be task tailored for maritime and ground operations, amphibious landings, and humanitarian efforts such as the rescue or evacuation of civilians from international areas in crisis.
Approximately 100 U.S. marines and troops of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanized Infantry Battalion landed from Polish “Lublin” class landing ships by swimming tracked amphibian vehicles ashore, and deployed in the concentration area.
Two U.S. B-52 strategic bomber aircraft flew over the operation area in the airspace of Lithuania for the first time in the history of the country. The USS Normandy warship, sailing in Lithuanian territorial waters from the beginning of the operation, was in charge of commanding the BALTOPS 2012 naval contingent including the “Lublin” class ships as well as five ships of the Baltic mine clearance squadron BALTRON.
At the end of the operation security from the air was ensured by two PA-200 Tornado fighter-jets from the German Air Force, in addition to the Tactical Air Assault Unit of the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces that provided air support throughout the operation.
The U.S. first organized the naval exercise BALTOPS in 1972. Since 1993 the series has been held under the Partnership for Peace program. Over four decades BALTOPS grew both in the number of participating forces, and in magnitude, becoming one of the largest military and defense training events in the Baltic region. Lithuania has been sending naval assets to take part in BALTOPS since 1994.
BALTOPS 2012, held from June 1-16, was organized and led by the United States Naval forces in the European Command (U.S. Naval Forces Europe), writes globaldefense.net. It was conducted in the territorial waters of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia, involved a total of 27 warships, 30 aircraft and ground forces.