Brent Scowcroft Center Deputy Director Magnus Nordenman writes for US Naval Institute News about BALTOPS, an annually recurring multinational exercise designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, as well as demonstrate the resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region:
The naval exercise BALTOPS 2015 is bringing the US Navy and its European friends and allies to a Nordic-Baltic region that is newly tense in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. The exercise also indicates that the Baltic Sea is playing a new role as a maritime space, and that anti-access/area-denial challenge is more than just a Pacific problem.
The annual maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea is under way and bigger than ever, with about forty-nine ships, sisxty-nine aircraft, and a submarine involved. The US Navy is well represented by, among others, the USS San Antonio, and the Royal Navy has brought its largest warship, HMS Ocean to the region. An exercise of long standing, BALTOPS has in previous iterations focused on the lower end of the operational spectrum, in order to prepare US friends and allies in the region to participate in, for example, humanitarian or counterpiracy operations. This year, however, naval and amphibious warfighting is back as a centerpiece of BALTOPS, including even an amphibious landing, as well as B-52s swinging through at low altitudes to practice dropping sea mines off the southern coast of Sweden to halt an amphibious landing by an aggressor. The harder-edged BALTOPS says a lot about the changing maritime environment in the Baltic Sea, which promises new challenges for US and allied maritime power.