The UK Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Kent and Sandown-class minehunter HMS Ramsey is joining NATO allies to participate in the US-led BALTOPS (Baltic Operations) exercise.
HMS Kent (F78)’s participation in BALTOPS represents a return to the Baltic Sea Region for the ship and her crew after she took part in the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) deployment Baltic Protector last year. The JEF is a UK-led high-readiness force of nine north European nations that helps to uphold security in the region.
HMS Ramsey (M110) will join the exercise as part of her five-week deployment with the NATO Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1). The NATO force is dedicated to eliminating the threat of historic mines in waters of northern Europe, practicing dealing with present-day mines, and promoting the alliance and freedom of the seas.
“HMS Kent represents a Navy that has continued to train and operate throughout the Coronavirus pandemic so that, alongside our allies, we’re ready for whatever comes next,” said UK Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey.
“The UK is committed to the independence of the Baltic Sea Region and this exercise along with a range of other UK military activity helps to deters threats and defends our interests in the region. With HMS Kent exercising on BALTOPS, the UK will contribute to the region’s security in the sea, the sky and on land.”
“My ship’s company are eager to take part in the exercise and up for the challenge, focussing on our ability to operate seamlessly with our NATO and partner nations,” said HMS Kent’s Commanding Officer Commander Matt Sykes.
“In these turbulent times, it is also vitally important that we demonstrate our commitment to the region and to upholding the principles of freedom of access to the Baltic Sea”.
There are currently over 800 British Army personnel deployed in Estonia, where they lead a multinational battlegroup as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. Elsewhere, RAF Typhoons are in Lithuania this summer to contribute to the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.
BALTOPS is NATO member and partner nations’ annual maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea region planned by the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and led by the United States Naval Forces Europe.
This year’s exercise involves participation from 19 nations; Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the U.K., and the United States. The 17 NATO and 2 partner nations will provide 29 maritime units, 29 aircraft, and 3,000 personnel.
Training focus areas of the exercise include air defense, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), maritime interdiction operations (MIOs), and mine countermeasures (MCM) operations.