Several Royal Navy ships will take part in Baltic Protector, including HMS Albion, next month. Photo courtesy British Royal Navy
April 3 (UPI) -- Britain will send nearly 2,000 members of its armed forces to the Baltic Sea for its biggest exercise with nations in the region next month.
Another 1,000 sailor and marines from eight nations -- Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden -- will participate in the Joint Expeditionary Force drills, according to a release Wednesday from the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
The JEF was established at the 2014 NATO Summit and launched a year later. It became fully operational with the signing of a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding in June 2018.
The two-month Baltic Protector mission is the first large-scale exercise by the JEF, and Britain's largest task group in more than 15 years in the Baltics, according to the Royal Navy.
Defense ministers and representatives from JEF countries will meet this week to discuss the deployment and test the mechanisms for the Baltic Protector.
At full strength, the joint force has the capability to mobilize more than 10,000 personnel in support of a variety of missions to deliver rapid and far-reaching effect.
Personnel from the British Army and Royal Air Force will take part, even though Baltic Protector is maritime focused.
Flagship HMS Albion, one of the British Navy's two amphibious assault ships, will lead a force that includes the frigate HMS Kent, more than half a dozen P2000 patrol boats, six helicopters, an elite dive team to search for mines, and Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade, including fast assault craft, field guns and combat engineers.
In all, 20 naval vessels from the countries will participate in exercises that "will underline the importance of protecting Europe at a time of increased threat," according to a British government release.
"As Britain prepares to leave the EU, our unwavering commitment to European security and stability is more important than ever," Defense Minister Gavin Williamson said. "Deploying our world class sailors and marines to the Baltic Sea, alongside our international allies, firmly underlines Britain's leading role in Europe.
Exercises will include maritime tactical, amphibious, amphibious raiding practice, shore landings and naval maneuvers.
"It is a huge privilege to command the Baltic Protector deployment, and I am greatly looking forward to working with our close friends and partners from the other eight Joint Expeditionary Force partner nations," Commodore James Parkin, commander of the Task Group, said. "Together, this UK-led Maritime Task Group will conduct a series of demanding amphibious exercises and maritime security patrols across the Baltic Sea that will serve to improve the way we operate together and our readiness to respond to crisis.
The JEF can work with multinational organizations, including NATO, the United Nations, the EU and Northern Group in combat operations, deterrence or humanitarian support.
During the Ebola outbreak, Britain, the Netherlands and Norway combined resources on land, at sea and in the air.
Last year, 22 NATO and partner nations participated in the U.S.-led Exercise Baltic Operations. BALTOPS began in 1972.