Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) began the 12 day maritime exercise “Neptune Strike ’22” on Monday January 24th in the Mediterranean Sea amid fears of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The USS HARRY S. TRUMAN aircraft carrier, along with her carrier strike group and air wing are the main contributors to the maritime exercise, which is scheduled to last until Friday 4th, 2022. The exercise will be led by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Eugene H. Black III, who serves as Strikeforce NATO commander and also the commander of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet.
The Neptune Strike 2022 highlights the NATO alliance’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of a carrier strike group to support the defense of the Alliance. “Neptune Strike 2022 accomplishes the long-planned handover of command and control of the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from SIXTHFLT to STRIKFORNATO and the wider Alliance,” the U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs Office said in a statement.
According to U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Eugene Black, “The capability of SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO combined staffs to enable a handover of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group demonstrates the power and cohesiveness of our maritime forces and the NATO Alliance. NATO’s command and control of a CSG is the result of decades of Alliance maritime interoperability.”
Neptune Strike ’22 is the execution phase of a long series of activities known as Project Neptune, conceptualized in 2020. The activity focuses on overcoming the complexities of integrating command and control of a carrier strike group to NATO.
Previous events in the Neptune series include table-top exercises at SIXTHFLT headquarters in Naples, Italy, last year, and a STRIKFORNATO embark in 2021 aboard USS MOUNT WHITNEY LCC 20 called Neptune Challenge. Neptune Challenge integrated the two staffs aboard LCC 20 in the Black Sea and developed the necessary procedures enabling the successful start of Neptune Strike.
USS MOUNT WHITNEY LCC 20 in the Mediterranean Sea back to 2018.
U.S. Department of Defense press secretary emphasized that the maneuvers had nothing to do with current fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and stated that “The exercise itself is not designed against the kinds of scenarios that might happen with respect to Ukraine. It really is a NATO maritime exercise to test… really a wide range of maritime capabilities that we want to make sure we continue to improve.”
“There was due consideration … given tensions right now, about our exercise posture,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said. “After all that consideration and discussion with our NATO allies, the decision was made to move ahead.”
However, Kirby stressed that “We’re going to make sure that we have options ready to reassure our allies, particularly on NATO’s eastern flank… If there’s another incursion and if they need that reassurance, if they need the capabilities to be bolstered, we’re going to do that. And we’re going to make sure that we’re ready to do that.”
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Published – Wednesday 26th January ,2022.