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NATO's massive Baltic Sea maritime exercise concludes

Military Sealift Command civil service mariners assigned to the USS Mount Whitney practice search and rescue techniques in the Baltic Sea, an element of NATO's BALTOPS 50 exercise. Photo courtesy of USS Mount Whitney/Facebook
Military Sealift Command civil service mariners assigned to the USS Mount Whitney practice search and rescue techniques in the Baltic Sea, an element of NATO's BALTOPS 50 exercise. Photo courtesy of USS Mount Whitney/Facebook

June 18 (UPI) -- BALTOPS 50, the expanded annual NATO naval exercise which this year included defensive cyberwarfare tactics, concluded successfully on Friday, NATO announced.

The two-week exercise in the Baltic Sea, stretching between Denmark and Lithuania, involved 16 NATO and partner countries, 40 ships, 60 aircraft and over 4,000 personnel, including NATO's two standing maritime commands.

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It was organized by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, the principal naval service command of the military bloc's Allied Command Operations known as STRIKFORNATO, and commanded by the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

The exercise included the involvement of the U.S. Marines' 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the U.S. Navy's Expeditionary Strike Group 2.

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The four-day Multinational Air Group Days, June 14 to 17, featured Germany's air force in coordinating demonstrations of fighter planes of Denmark, Poland, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Germany and the United States.

The NATO Space Center was integrated into BALTOPS for the first time this year, and was involved in defensive cyber warfare tactics, techniques and procedures, a NATO statement on Friday said.

BALTOPS 50 is among 20 major NATO exercises scheduled in 2021.

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"Training focus areas include integration of air defense, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasure, and amphibious operations," a statement in May, announcing the event, said.

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The exercise has been held since 1972 in the Baltic Sea, which borders Russia and five NATO countries. The area has been the site of numerous Russian military flyovers, most recently in April, which have aroused the attention of NATO and the U.S. Northern Command.

In one instance in March, NATO fighter jets scrambled 10 times in the course of six hours to intercept six different groups of Russian military aircraft approaching NATO airspace over the North Atlantic Ocean.

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This year's participants included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

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