The 2020 annual NATO Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) naval exercise concluded on June 16 after a week and a half of exclusively maritime exercises.

Due to restrictions to limit exposure with the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s exercise was the first to take place exclusively at sea, which was announced by the U.S. Navy earlier this month (Defense Daily, June 2).

From front to back, the U.S. Navy Supply-class fast-combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6), the U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75), the Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Otto Suerdrup (F312), the German Navy Bremen-class frigate FGS Luebeck (F214), and the German Navy Rhone-Class replenishment oiler FGS Rhoen (A1443) sail in formation behind the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) while participating in exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2020 in the Baltic Sea, June 8, 2020. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

BALTOPS 2020 involved 28 air and 28 maritime assets from 17 NATO member states and two partner nations that began on June 7.

The annual exercise is meant to be a visible demonstration of NATO’s commitment to rapidly respond to a crisis. The Navy said it is designed to enhance interoperability, flexibility and “demonstrate resolve among allies and partner forces in defending the Baltic region.”

This year was the sixth Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO)-led BALTOPS and participating forces conducted air, surface, subsurface and mine warfare operation.

“For STRIKFORNATO, this BALTOPS has proved our ability to command from our Joint Operations Centre here in Lisbon, some 1,400 miles from the southern Baltic Sea where our forces our operating,” STRIKFORNATO Deputy Commander, Royal Navy Rear Adm. Guy Robinson OBE, said in a statement.

“The COVID pandemic has undoubtedly made the planning for this year’s exercise more challenging. It has also forced us to do things differently and, in some cases, better,” he added.

Tactical Exercise (TACEX) Director, Royal Marines Lt. Col. Kian Murphy underscored he was impressed by the training audience reaction to the hybrid TACEX scenario.

“We aimed to challenge them in a wide range of maritime and air warfare domains up to high intensity conflict. They stepped up to the challenge and proved highly capable,” Murphy said.

BALTOPS 2020 participating countries included Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.

Last year’s exercise, which was led by the U.S. 2nd Fleet and began in Kiel, Germany, increased coordinated military exercises, or serials, from 98 in 2018 to 289 in 2019. It also featured the first simultaneous amphibious operations in the Eastern and Western Baltic Sea (Defense Daily, June 24, 2019).

The Navy did not disclose how many serials were completed in this year’s BALTOPS.