Nineteen NATO Allies and one NATO Partner Nation, Sweden, concluded the 52nd Baltic Operations 2023 (BALTOPS 23) exercise in Kiel, Germany, on 16 June 2023. As in the case of Air Defender, the organizers "forgot" to invite Greece but remembered to invite Turkey, which participated with 3 F-16 fighters.
The exercise lasted 13 days in the Baltic Sea region and beyond and involved 50 ships, more than 45 aircraft and 6,000 personnel.
Addressing the participants and media at BALTOPS 23 in Kiel, Vice Admiral Thomas Ishee, Commander of NATO Strike and Support Naval Forces (STRIKFORNATO) and the US Sixth Fleet, spoke about the dynamic and critical milestones achieved during BALTOPS 23.
"After two weeks of intense, combined operations in the Baltic region, we have deployed as a team operating as a team," Ishee said. "BALTOPS 23 lived up to its intentions by validating our collective defense capability, proving that NATO's maritime readiness is stronger than ever. Our strength is based on the mutual trust between Allies and Partners developed in operations, activities and exercises like BALTOPS 23. The seamless interoperability demonstrated over the past two weeks proves that NATO is ready to deter and defend if needed."
Participating nations include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The milestones represented by BALTOPS 23 were significant. While Finland has regularly participated in previous BALTOPS, this year was the first time Finland joined the exercise as a NATO ally. In addition, BALTOPS 23 incorporated new ways of working with the merchant navy to ensure NATO's proficiency in maritime cooperation with international stakeholders.
As the exercise culminated on 14 June, Germany celebrated its 175th naval anniversary. An important ally in both BALTOPS and NATO, Germany contributed significantly to this year's success, NATO said, demonstrating that as in the case of Air Defender, it must have been their own "finger" in BALTOP that did not include Greece but brought Turkey to this exercise as well.
During the exercise at sea, the ships conducted tactical maneuvering exercises, anti-submarine warfare, naval artillery and small arms training, mine countermeasure operations and air defense exercises. Notable participants included the Swedish submarine, the UK's HMS Albion (L 14) landing ship (LPD) HMS Albion, the Italian Navy's ITS San Marco and aircraft from other countries such as Poland, Portugal, Turkey and the United States.