A U.S. Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter assigned to the “Spartans” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 conducted launch of AGM-114N Hellfire missile off the coast of Lithuania during exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2019.
BALTOPS 2019 is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe, practicing the integration of allied and partner naval forces.
“I have done BALTOPS many times before,” said Danish Cmdr. Michael Madsen, SNMG1 Staff Planning Officer. “Each year it evolves into something bigger and better than the year before – more ships, more nations, and more complex training evolutions.”
In an operation combining air defense, surface and anti-subsurface warfare, mine countermeasures, and amphibious operations involving 50 warships, 36 aircraft, two submarines and 8,600 personnel, effective communication is key to safety, especially when Hellfire missiles are shot off the coastline of Lithuania from a U.S. MH-60R Seahawk.
“The missile shoot was a resounding success,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Miller, Air Boss of the Spartans of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 70 Detachment ONE and SNMG1 Staff Helicopter Element Coordinator. “During the shoot, Spartan aircrew communicated with Lithuanian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers onboard a range safety boat utilizing joint tactics and procedures. The interoperability of communications highlighted the importance of building and maintaining these relationships and directly contributed to both targets being successfully destroyed.”
During BALTOPS 2019, SNMG1 has had the unique training opportunity designed to sustain readiness of NATO maritime forces, which is critical to ensure the safety of the sea lanes, while also demonstrating the inherent flexibility of the maritime forces and their ability to quickly assemble and integrate with each other.
“The Sea is not a barrier that divides people and places, it’s a freeway, a great global common that connects them, just as our shared values and commitment to regional security connect all of the nations participating in BALTOPS,” said Cashman. “The security of that global common is a primary mission of NATO and of Standing Maritime Group One. The U.S-led BALTOPS gives us the opportunity to operate and integrate into a flexible Command and Control structure led by U.S. Second Fleet and including U.S. Navy forces, the Standing NATO Maritime and Mine Countermeasures groups, the Joint Expeditionary Force, and numerous Allies and partners from the region.”
Nations participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
SNMG1 is currently composed of the U.S. flagship guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely, the British frigate HMS Westminster, Polish guided-missile frigate ORP General K. Pulaski, Turkish frigate TCG Gokova, Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbon, and German navy replenishment tanker FGS Rhoen.
SNMG 1 is one of four standing maritime task groups composed of ships from various Allied countries. These task groups form the core maritime capability of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). They provide a continuous maritime capability to execute NATO missions across the spectrum of operations, demonstrate solidarity, and strengthen diplomatic and professional links among Allied naval forces.