NATO, U.S. work together in BALTOPS 2017

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Alexandra M. Longfellow
  • NATO E-3A Component Public Affairs

BALTOPS 2017 is the 45th edition of the annual multinational, maritime-heavy exercise offering high-end training. The exercise involves 6,000 military personnel, 50 ships and submarines from allies Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as NATO partners, Finland and Sweden and more than 50 aircraft.

Originally the largest naval exercise in Northern Europe, BALTOPS this year is designed to enhance coordination and cooperation with air forces for the first time.

Nearly 100 men and women of the 513th Air Control Group from Tinker Air Force Base, representing the only Reserve U.S. AWACS organization, flew into NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany, June 2 to participate in BALTOPS with the E-3A Component.

“What’s unique about this team is that we are 99 percent Reservists,” said Lt. Col. James J. Mattey, 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron director of operations. “Most of our Reservists have taken time away from their civilian employers to sharpen their combat skills. Most of our warfighters have between 10-20 years working with the AWACS. That is a heck of a lot of combat-ready resources that we bring to bear in support of the Combined Forces Air Component Commander and Joint Force Commander.”

The 513th ACG successfully provided Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for three major exercises over the past two years. Last year, they looked to United States Air Force in Europe and NATO for the opportunity to add more “arrows in their quiver” and sought out BALTOPS as their exercise of choice for 2017.

“We selected GK because it is an E-3A base,” Mattey said. “Our maintenance personnel have integrated seamlessly with NATO maintenance keeping us fully mission capable throughout the duration of the exercise. The deployment for us provides invaluable, international training for our pilots, air battle managers, surveillance technicians, mission system technicians and datalink operators.”

“The fact that we are here, in Europe, working with NATO sends a message,” Mattey said. “We are committed to the collective security of all nations and we are extremely proud and motivated to participate side-by-side with our partners in NATO—the first peacetime military alliance the United States entered into post World War II. The world’s geopolitical landscape has changed dramatically in the years the 513th ACG has been in existence. We must continue to understand, anticipate and get out in front of regional and global threats. A strong working relationship between all NATO allies at the tactical and operational levels is a precursor to a strong and enduring defence.”

The joint multinational live training exercise BALTOPS, which concluded June 16, was designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability through a series of combined tactical manoeuvres and scenarios involving NATO’s Allies’ and partner assets.