GAETA: Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) commenced NATO-led activity Neptune Strike 2022 from the SIXTHFLT flagship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), Jan. 24. The activity is planned to run until 4 February, says press statement issued on Monday.
Neptune Strike 2022 highlights the natural evolution of NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of a carrier strike group to support the defense of the Alliance.
Neptune Strike 2022 accomplishes the long-planned handover of command and control of the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from SIXTHFLT to STRIKFORNATO and the wider Alliance. It represents a strong sign of transatlantic unity and readiness.
The capability of SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO combined staffs to enable a handover of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group demonstrates the power and cohesiveness of our maritime forces and the NATO Alliance,
said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO. “NATO’s command and control of a Carrier Strike Group is the result of decades of Alliance maritime interoperability.”
Neptune Strike 2022 is the execution phase of a long series of activities known as Project Neptune, conceptualized in 2020. The activity focuses on overcoming the complexities of integrating command and control of a carrier strike group to NATO.
Previous events in the Neptune series include table-top exercises at SIXTHFLT headquarters in Naples, Italy, last year, and a STRIKFORNATO embark in 2021 aboard Mount Whitney called Neptune Challenge. Neptune Challenge integrated the two staffs aboard Mount Whitney in the Black Sea and developed the necessary procedures enabling the successful start of Neptune Strike.
“Neptune Challenge gave our staffs an incredible opportunity to learn and grow together aboard our flagship, Mount Whitney,” said Rear Adm. James Morley, deputy commander, STRIKFORNATO. “The lessons we took from Neptune Challenge led directly into our execution of Neptune Strike, and I look forward to watching this combined team work to command and control high-end forces in real time.”
SIXTHFLT, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa.
STRIKFORNATO, headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal, is Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s (SACEUR) premier, rapidly deployable and flexible, maritime power projection Headquarters, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations.
Neptune Strike 2022 highlights NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime capabilities of a carrier strike group to ensure high operational readiness across the Alliance and the defence and protection of all Allies. It is the first time since the Cold War that a full US carrier group comes under NATO command.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the move, calling it “a strong sign of transatlantic unity.” He added: “NATO will always do what is necessary to protect and defend all Allies.”