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06 16 2023

NATO's leading maritime exercise in the Baltic Region ends

On 16 June, Exercise Baltic Operations 2023 (BALTOPS 23) ended in Tallinn, Estonia, after kicking off on 4 June.

BALTOPS is an annual exercise that provides a unique training opportunity to strengthen our capabilities to preserve the security of the Baltic Sea. It is one of NATO's longest-running exercises, and for 52 years, it has been testing and training the ability of Allied and partner nations to combine forces and work together successfully and effectively.

NATO's leading maritime exercise in the Baltic Region ends

BALTOPS 23 was led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. Sixth Fleet and command-and-controlled by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal. The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) provided 30 staff members to deliver communications and information system support during the exercise.

The NCI Agency provided various types of required support to BALTOPS dealing with communications, networking, intelligence sharing, logistical support and coordination among participating nations. Our expertise as a communications enabler in areas such as command and control, maritime domain awareness, surveillance, and intelligence gathering contributed to the overall situational awareness and operational effectiveness of the exercise.

The Agency's involvement in BALTOPS is of significant importance, as it demonstrates its commitment to collective defence and the security of the region, reinforcing NATO's strategic objectives and its deterrence posture.

BALTOPS 23 saw the presence of 20 Allied and partner nations, 50 ships, more than 45 aircraft, and 6,000 personnel from different NATO bodies. This year also marked the first incorporation of Finland as a NATO Ally, who has long participated in BALTOPS as a critical partner. With Sweden on its way to becoming a member of the Alliance, the Nordic country also participated in this year's exercise as a NATO partner.

As the current security environment continues to change, BALTOPS has also adapted to test the Alliance's readiness to counteract more complex and realistic challenges. Due to the growing significance of hybrid threats, BALTOPS 23 included prioritized training and preparedness for countering hybrid warfare tactics.

The trainings combined cutting-edge technologies and advanced systems to enhance information sharing, joint operations, and decision-making processes. This included operations involving uncrewed systems, cyber defence, and integration of emerging capabilities.

In the past, the exercise was directed by personnel out at sea, aboard USS Mount Whitney. STRIKFORNATO began hosting the exercise from their static headquarters in Oeiras during the pandemic, when there were space limitations on board the vessel due to COVID mitigation procedures. This proved to be an additional successful tool for collaboration between NATO bodies, and in recent years became the norm of execution for BALTOPS. The exercise now takes place on land in Oeiras, Portugal and aboard the USS Mount Whitney in the Baltic Sea.

Images sourced from Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and the United States Naval Forces Europe and Africa.