LISBON, Portugal -- A large-scale North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercise aimed at readying naval and air forces for rapid deployment on peace-keeping missions began Saturday off the coast of Portugal.
The 10-day Linked Seas 93 exercise, officially described as one of the largest NATO operations in 10 years, involves 8,000 men, 66 vessels and 25 different types of aircraft from 12 nations.
Portuguese Vice Adm. Narciso Duro said the primary objective of the exercise is to test the treaty organization's response to regional conflicts.
It will also involve special operations units.
Duro, commander-in-chief of the Iberian Atlantic area, acknowledged that the exercise had been prompted by the current role of NATO forces in the Adriatic.
NATO forces are policing movements of shipping and aircraft around the war in the former Yugoslavia.
The exercise is tailored to rehearse anti-air, anti-surface and anti- submarine warfare, as well as special operations, electronic warfare, mine warfare, surveillance, and interdiction and naval control of shipping.
Duro said that land-based aircraft will play a key role in the exercise, providing logistical support for the fleet.
The fleet will maintain close links during the exercise with NATO units in the Mediterranean, enabling a rapid switch in the theatre of operations, Duro said.
France and Spain, although not part of Nato's integrated military structure, are joining the exercise with naval and air forces.
The exercise is taking place in the Atlantic between the north of Portugal and the Strait of Gibraltar.