The aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and his Strike Group will team up with NATO forces next week in the Mediterranean to launch a new maritime exercise: Neptune Strike ’22.
The exercise, which has been ongoing since 2020 and does not meet rising tensions with Russia, will place the Truman and its carrier strike group under NATO operational control, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. The carrier battle group will function as the “centerpiece” of the exercise promoting interoperability among allies, he said.
The exercise includes maritime maneuvers, anti-submarine warfare training and long-range strike training.
“It is designed to demonstrate NATO’s ability to integrate high-end maritime strike capabilities from an aircraft carrier strike group to support alliance deterrence and defense,” Kirby told reporters. January 21.
“All training events will highlight the continued and steady progression of alliance cohesion in a high-end, dynamic environment,” Kirby said.
NATO naval strike and support forces, led by Vice Commander 6th Fleet, Vice Admiral Gene Black, are overseeing the exercise.
The exercise will end on February 4.
The NATO exercise coincides with rising tensions with Moscow and fears that Russia could invade Ukraine. Russia has bolstered its forces near the Ukrainian border – mustering around 100,000 troops – and is set to launch its own massive naval exercise later this month.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the exercise will require more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Geneva on Friday, and Blinken said afterwards that he believed he had established a “clearer path to understanding the positions on the other”, although no agreement has been negotiated.
Blinken said the United States and its allies remained committed to rejecting Russia’s most important demands, which were reiterated on Friday. Moscow wants NATO promises that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it will withdraw its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.
The Pentagon said Neptune’s Strike ’22 was not designed in response to recent Russian actions, although Kirby admitted officials were weighing its cancellation in light of the tense environment. Even so, the exercise is “not designed against any of the types of scenarios that might arise with respect to Ukraine,” Kirby said.
Guided missile destroyers Bainbridge, Cole, Gravely, Jason Dunham, guided missile cruiser San Jacinto, along with Carrier Air Wing 1 and personnel from Carrier Strike Group 8, make up Truman’s strike group.
The Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen also deployed with the strike group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.