Maritime forces from 12 countries have started the 40th annual multinational naval exercise, Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2012, in the Baltic Sea, aimed at maintaining peace and security in the region.
The multinational maritime exercise is also intended to enhance mutual understanding and to improve participating navies' interoperability to jointly combat regional and transnational threats.
As part of the exercise, some 30 aircraft and 1,500 sailors and marines, as well as 27 ships from the participating nations are scheduled to conduct operations, which include mine clearance, anti-submarine warfare, surface-to-air defence, counter-piracy, small-boat attacks and other maritime security tasks.
US 6th Fleet and NATO Striking and Support Forces commander vice admiral Frank Pandolfe said that the common goal of BALTOPS was to enhance Baltic Sea security through increased interoperability and collaboration among allied nations.
"As in past years, our sailors and marines will be working side-by-side with their colleagues from partner nations, both on land and at sea, becoming familiar with each other's military operating procedures and practices," Pandolfe added.
Expeditionary Strike Group 2 commander rear admiral Ann Phillips added that BALTOPS provided an opportunity for the forces to train jointly in a challenging environment to quickly and effectively respond to real-world situations.
"Through combined exercises, we are able to enhance our effectiveness by blending varied experiences and perspectives," he said.
Other participating nations in the BALTOPS 2012 exercise include Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the US.
BALTOPS 2012 is scheduled to take place until 16 June and will be held in the territorial waters of Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia of the Baltic Sea.
Image: Dragoon Training Battalion arrives to take part in the BALTOPS 2012 naval exercise. Photo: courtesy of the Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Lithuania.