The Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) is conducting the Combat Enhancement Training (CET) and Force Integration Training (FIT) phase of this year’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS).
BALTOPS, led by STRIKFORNATO, brings together 19 NATO Allies and partner nations to improve combat readiness, enhance relationships and reinforce maritime security in the Baltic Sea region. The CET-FIT phase began on June 7 and will last until June 12. It provides an opportunity for NATO Allies and partners to demonstrate capabilities and exercise their tactical interoperability.
STRIKFORNATO’s CET-FIT Phase Director, German Navy Cmdr. Patrik Dittrich, said the phase provides an opportunity to test communications and rehearse common NATO procedures to improve coordination within the multinational group.
“When units from different Allied and partner countries come together as a NATO force, they are expected to operate and communicate in line with established NATO doctrine. The CET-FIT gives everyone a chance to adjust to the Allied way of doing things,” Dittrich said.
“This phase in the exercise also allows task group commanders and units to get to know each other better and to demonstrate best practices while working together.”
This year, Lithuania will lead the Mine Countermeasure (MCM) task group, which is under the command of Lithuanian Cmdr. Audrius Venckunas. Their main duties during BALTOPS are to search for and neutralize mines and other explosive ordnance in order to keep the sea lines of communications open and to preserve the freedom of navigation.
“It is my 7th BALTOPS exercise and the first time I am in charge of the entire Task Group,” Venckunas said. “I am very delighted to be given a chance to lead a group of such well-prepared ships and their capable crews.”
The training during BALTOPS 20 provides an opportunity to reinforce combined response capabilities necessary for regional stability. When preparing and executing multinational exercises, NATO commanders and planners work closely together to minimize influence on the environment and local communities, such as disruption of services, noise or pollution.
“CET-FIT gives us an opportunity to tune into the small things to enhance our interoperability and get ready for the more dynamic tactical phase,” Venckunas said.
STRIKFORNATO maintains a broad training and exercise program, shaped by both the NATO Exercise Program and the U.S. Joint Exercise Program, in order to ensure a high state of readiness at all times.