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¡¡¡¡June 7 (UPI) — The Baltic Region’s maritime-focused exercise BALTOPS 50, which includes defensive cyberwarfare tactics for the first time, has launched, the U.S. Navy said.

¡¡¡¡Air and maritime assets from 18 NATO allies and partner nations will participate in BALTOPS 50’s live training events, which kicked off on Sunday and will go through June 18, the U.S. Navy announced.


¡¡¡¡Participating nations include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

¡¡¡¡The events include air defense, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious operations, maritime interdiction, and mine countermeasure operations.

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¡¡¡¡”This year, we celebrate the 50th BALTOPS, an exercise that sets the foundation of interoperability across the Alliance,” U.S. Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, said in the announcement.

¡¡¡¡”For the first time, exercise design incorporates defensive cyber warfare tactics, techniques and procedures as BALTOPS continues to adapt and train to ensure an asymmetric advantage in the era of modern warfare,” the Navy announcement added.

¡¡¡¡The exercise has been divided into two at sea training phases, the combat enhancement training and forced integration training portion, along with a final tactical phase as it was last year.

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¡¡¡¡Also, similar to last year, Naval Striking and Support Forces ashore will command the exercise from headquarters in Portugal.

¡¡¡¡”II Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Expeditionary Strike Group 2 will command and control exercise Marine forces throughout the exercise from aboard USS Mount Whitney, demonstrating international naval integration and power projection ashore for an amphibious demonstration in Lithuania,” the Navy added in the BALTOPS 50 announcement.

¡¡¡¡Ships and aircraft will transit through the Danish Straits in the first six days, demonstrating the CET/FIT phase, and “focusing on maritime operations in critical chokepoints, ensuring access and freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea,” according to the statement.

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¡¡¡¡The exercise will continue to move east during CET/FIT phase, and will end with the tactical “free-play” phase, which gives commanders more freedom and is designed to emulate “real-world situations,” the Navy said.

¡¡¡¡The maritime-focused exercise that brings together NATO allies and partners has been held in the Baltic region since 1972.

¡¡¡¡”BALTOPS stands as the keystone of our exercise season, demonstrating half a century of the unwavering commitment of our partners and allies,” Black said in the BALTOPS 50 announcement.

¡¡¡¡”Lessons learned in BALTOPS enable international strike group operations, advanced missile defense capabilities and seamless surface action group missions,” Black said.