On June 6 LNS Skalvis (M53) mine countermeasures ship and LNS Aukštaitis (P14) patrol ship of the Lithuanian Navy joined the premier maritime exercise this year BALTOPS 2020 in the Baltic Sea. The Lithuanian ships and crews will be completing exercise tasks from June 7 to 16.
BALTOPS 2020 will take place in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and Germany in the Baltic Sea. The exercise will train air and naval assets from 17 NATO allies (Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S.) and 2 partner nations (Finland and Sweden). Over 3,000 troops as the training audience will be using 28 ships and 29 aircraft of a range of types for training the exercise tasks.
The Lithuanian Navy has a particularly important role in this year's iteration of BALTOPS. Two senior commanding officers represent Lithuania in the exercise: Cdr Audrius Venckūnas will lead the Joint Mine Warfare Task Group formed by the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1), MCM ships of the Netherlands and Germany, and a combined Mine Warfare Unit. Cdr Andrius Širvys will lead the Baltic Squadron BALTRON which will be strengthened by German and Polish warships during the exercise. LNS Skalvis (M53) MCM ship will be the flagship of the unit. LNS Aukštaitis (P14) will sail as part of the Danish-led warship group.
BALTOPS 2020 will train warship maneuver in formations, ship convoy, gunnery, anti-aircraft and anti-terrorism defence, mine hunting and sweeping, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious landing, and other procedures.
This year the exercise will take place on the sea only in order to protect health and safety of military personnel: the shore-based elements of the exercise, such as introductory events in ports - planning conferences and training at ports, will be dropped. The precaution is necessary to ensure multilateral operational cooperation while protecting health and safety of the crews so as to make sure they are ready to protect the region at any time.
This is the 49th iteration of the Baltic Operations, BALTOPS, led by the U.S. Navy since it was first held in 1972. Lithuania has been taking part in the exercise since 1993 and has contributed significantly with ships, officers in charge of training ship groups, organisation of shore-based run-up events (Klaipėda, 2018), and amphibious landing operation on the shore of Lithuania carried out by very significant forces (Nemirseta 2011, 2018, 2019).
Information credits: Lithuanian Navy HQ, CIMIC Division, senior specialist PO1 Audrius Vitkauskas
Photo credits: Lithuanian Armed Forces