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