UK leads multinational task force to conduct patrol in the Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea
HMS Lancaster takes part in a close proximity navigation exercise in the Baltic Region with Lithuanian ship LNS Jotvingus (top), and Latvian Ship LVNS Jelgava (middle). (Credit: Royal Navy)

The Royal Navy is leading an international task group of half a dozen warships on a Baltic security patrol, the Royal Navy announced.

Frigates HMS Lancaster and Westminster, tanker RFA Tiderace and vessels from all three Baltic states – Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – have joined forces for a concerted demonstration of Britain’s commitment to the security and stability of the Baltic Sea.

The deployment is another test of elements of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force – a partnership of nine northern European nations committed to working together on operations as varied as warfighting through humanitarian assistance and defense engagement.

“Some of the UK’s closest and most steadfast Allies are found in the Baltics. This deployment is both the latest example of a long and proud history of defense cooperation and a clear demonstration of the capability of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force,” said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

“As the first maritime patrol made up of exclusively JEF nations, we are ensuring our ships and people are ready to operate in challenging conditions alongside our Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Swedish allies in the Baltic Sea.”

Multinational task force in the Baltic Sea:

The Royal Navy ships have been joined by Estonian minelayer Wambola, Latvian patrol vessel Jelgava, and from Lithuania minelayer Jotvingis and patrol ship Selis, plus aircraft from the Swedish Air Force, with the focus on maritime security and freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea.

“It is a real privilege to command the first task group of this type, and I have been impressed by the capabilities on display from our partner nations,” said Commander Will Blackett, Commanding Officer of Portsmouth-based Lancaster, which is the flagship of the naval force.

baltic sea
HMS Lancaster take part in replenishment at sea (RAS) approaches with RFA Tide Race in the North Sea. (Credit: Royal Navy)

His ships conducted a series of combined maneuvers to test collective seamanship and get used to working together as a united task group, and all played out in unrelenting sub-zero temperatures.

The British ships underwent a week of ‘full-throttle individual and combined training in the North Sea on their way to join their Baltic Sea allies.

The workout has covered firefighting, medical training, damage control, ships sailing in close formation, refueling at sea, gunnery, air defense, and intensive training with helicopters – plus adjusting to sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms as the ships pushed deeper into the Baltic.

Naval Post Comment: Power demonstration in the Baltic Sea became a routine for a few years. Both Russia and NATO countries and allies have a great interest in the region. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, often referred to as the Baltic states, are close U.S. allies and considered among the most pro-U.S. countries in Europe. U.S., NATO, and Baltic leaders have viewed Russian military activity in the region with concern; such activity includes large-scale exercises, incursions into Baltic states’ airspace, and a layered build-up of anti-access/area denial (A2AD) capabilities. The Baltic states fulfill NATO’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, although as countries with relatively small populations, their armed forces remain relatively small and their military capabilities limited. Consequently, the Baltic states’ defense planning relies heavily on their NATO membership. But, The United States and the Baltic states cooperate closely on defense and security issues. New bilateral defense agreements signed in spring 2019 focus security cooperation on improving capabilities in areas such as maritime domain awareness, intelligence sharing, surveillance, and cybersecurity in the Baltic Sea.

When we look from the Russian side, the presence of the U.S. very close to its borders is very disturbing for Russia, because it considers the region its main door to the ocean. Therefore, Russia plans to keep the Baltic Fleet strong and ready, this issue causes the high-tension in the region.

Previous articleStanding NATO Maritime Group-2 returns to the Black Sea
Next articleUSS Louisville (SSN 724) Decommissioned