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Release No: 343-96
June 07, 1996


The largest ever naval and air contingent -- representing 14 European nations and the United States -- will participate this summer in the 24th annual U.S. invitational maritime exercise in the Baltic Sea. U.S. Baltic Operations 1996 (BALTOPS 96) -- conducted in the spirit of NATO's Partnership for Peace initiative -- will include 48 ships and aircraft from 12 squadrons of NATO-member and Partnership for Peace countries.

BALTOPS 96 is conducted in two at-sea phases. Phase one, the Partnership Phase, is June 10-14. It is intended to build understanding among nations of the Baltic region and to enhance the ability of nations to work on maritime disaster response, search and rescue, coastal surveillance, customs enforcement and other operations.

Phase two, to be conducted June 17-21, will exercise participating NATO naval and air forces in a variety of maritime operations.

For the first time ever, a U.S. Coast Guard vessel is participating in the exercise. The high endurance cutter USCG Gallatin (WHEC-721) will train participating nations in a variety of coastal patrol practices, including sanction enforcement through visit, board, and search and seizure procedures.

BALTOPS 96 demonstrates the continuing interest of the United States in the stability of northern Europe, said Admiral Leighton W. Smith, commander in chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, the exercise sponsor. The emphasis of this exercise is on regional stability, regional understanding and interoperability among the participating forces, he said.

Rear Admiral Robert C. Williamson, commander, Carrier Group Two, based in Norfolk, Va., will command the exercise. He and his staff will be embarked aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Hue City (CG-66). Participants in BALTOPS 96 include ships, aircraft and observers from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.


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