June 21 (UPI) -- A 12-day, 18-nation naval training exercise, led by the U.S. Navy's Second Fleet, concluded on Friday in Kiel, Germany.
The 47th annual Baltic Operations [BALTOPS] involved NATO allies 8,600 personnel in training "enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations," a Navy statement said.
Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as NATO partner nations Finland and Sweden, participated in the exercise.
"It is imperative that allies and partners unite to confront today's challenges," said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis of Naval Forces Europe, who commanded the exercises. "Our combined efforts during BALTOPS demonstrates our commitment to regional peace and prosperity. Our presence and professionalism in the region during this exercise will prepare us for future operational commitments and evolving strategic challenges. We are stronger together."
The combined forces completed 389 serials, a planning term for a coordinated military exercise, compared to 98 serials scheduled at the 2018 event. For the first time, a Joint Expeditionary Force led by the United Kingdom demonstrated its capabilities as an adaptable, high-readiness force.
The NATO Amphibious Leaders Expeditionary Symposium [NALES] concept of multinational command and control of an Amphibious Task Force-level capability was also implemented for the first time, allowing the coordinated command and control of naval forces across different nations' amphibious forces.
The German, U.S., Norwegian and Dutch navies collaborated on clearing World War II-era mines from the Baltic sea seabed near the Bundeswehr Military Training area near Todendorf, Germany, and the Lithuanian Air Force practiced helicopter landings aboard the USS amphibious command ship Mount Whitney.
The end of the exercises coincided with the start of "Kiel Week," an annual sailing competition which draws millions of tourists to the city of Kiel.