On June 11 for the first time in the history of Lithuania the allies conducted a landing operation on the Lithuanian seacoast as part of the multinational Exercise BALTOPS 2012 which included air and naval assets and military personnel of seven NATO members – Lithuania, Estonia, U.S.A., Latvia, Poland, the Netherlands and Germany.
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“This large-scale multinational Exercise once again demonstrates that people of Lithuania are not on their own and NATO membership is assuming a full-fledged character,” said Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė. “It is crucial that Lithuanian troops in collaboration with other allies and partners can improve interoperability and mutual understanding via training for crisis situations feasible in the Baltic Region.”
The main tasks of the operation – sea landing maneuver – in BALTOPS 2012 was fulfilled in collaboration among the Ground Combat Element and the Air Combat Element of the U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force and units of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The allied capabilities, assets and personnel, were brought to the Baltic shore by Lithuania’s strategic partner Poland’s “Lublin” class warships.
“As Chief of Defence of Lithuania and Commander of the Exercise in Lithuania I am very happy to have the Lithuanian military comprehensively involved in BALTOPS 2012 – from completion of joint operations to rendering Host Nation Support,” highlighted Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen Arvydas Pocius. “I anticipate that all the Lithuanian military from OFs to ORs who were involved in the planning and completion of the Exercise have drawn invaluable experience while Lithuanian people will feel proud to see that Lithuania is a full-fledged member of the international community responsible security in the region.”
Such distinguished guests as President of the Republic of Lithuania HE Dalia Grybauskaitė, Minister of National Defence R. Juknevičienė, members of the Parliament, Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen A. Pocius, high-ranking UK officer who has held a position of authority in Operation Unified Protector in Libya, Deputy Commander Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), Rear Admiral Russ Harding, Rear Admiral Ann Claire Phillips, Commander of the Expeditionary Strike Group Two, Adjutant General of the Pennsylvania National Guard Maj Gen Wesley Craig, foreign ambassadors in Lithuania, high-ranking Lithuanian and foreign officers, and other guests.
According to the scenario of the landing operation in Nemirseta (Palangos Distr.) personnel of the Combat Divers Service of the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces and the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Diving Unit of the Lithuanian Navy surveyed sublitoral zone and reconnoitred seafloor of the Baltic Sea together with the personnel of the Diving and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Reconnaissance Unit of the Motorised Infantry Brigade “Iron Wolf” rope-landed from two Mi-8 helicopters of the Lithuanian Air Force to ensure security in the Baltic coastline.
Approximately 100 US marines and troops of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanised Infantry Battalion landed from Polish “Lublin” class landing ships by swimming tracked amphibians and deployed in the concentration area.
U.S. B-52 strategic bomber aircraft flew over the operation area in the airspace of Lithuania for the first time in the history of our country.
“USS Normandy” warship sailing in the Lithuanian territorial waters from the beginning of the operation was in charge of commanding the BALTOPS 2012 naval contingent including the Polish “Lublin” class ships as well as five ships of the Baltic mine clearance squadron BALTRON.
In the end of the operation security from the air was ensured by two PA-200 “Tornado” fighter-jets of the Polish Air Force in addition to the Tactical Air Assault Unit of the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces that provided air support throughout the operation.
BALTOPS 2012 located in the territorial waters of Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia of the Baltic Sea involves the total of 27 warships, 30 aircrafts, and components of ground forces.
Multinational cooperation in case of a crisis in the region is enhanced and security in the Baltic Sea region fostered in BALTOPS 2012. During the Exercise military forces will conduct joint maritime operations from manoeuvring and patrolling to joint operations with other forces – air and land.
USA first organised the naval exercise BALTOPS in 1972. Since 1993 the series has been held under the Partnership for Peace program. Over four decades BALTOPS grew both in number of participating forces and in magnitude becoming one of the largest training events in the Baltic Region. Lithuania has been sending naval assets to take part in BALTOPS since 1994.
Ministry of National Defense Republic of Lithuania