The Baltic military operations exercise (BALTOPS) known as Operation Saber Strike is underway with NATO keen to demonstrate its might in the region.
The annual exercise is conducted by the US Army in Europe (USAREUR) but involves participants from 14 countries including Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom along with the United States.
Operation Saber Strike 2017 takes place in multiple locations throughout Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland 28th May to the 24th June.
In addition to troops on the ground multiple air assets are taking part which saw RAF Fairford once again become home to a fleet of heavy bombers from the US Air Force.
B52H’s Bombers from Barskdale Air Force Base (AFB) were joined by B1-B Bombers from Ellesworth AFB and B2 Stealth Bombers from Whiteman AFB. An occasion which saw the 3 together in the UK for the first time ever outside of an airshow.
All 3 types have been flying regular missions out of RAF Fairford.
The US Army in Europe says: “Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise that helps facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.
This year’s key exercise objective will be training and exercising the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence, or eFP, battle groups with a focus on promoting interoperability with allies and regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions.”
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According to USAREUR key training events of Saber Strike 17 will include:
- Convoy by Battle Group Poland from Orzysz, Poland, to southern Lithuania
- Maritime propositioned offload of pre-staged supplies and equipment in Latvia
- Marine amphibious assault in Latvia
- Two combined arms live fire exercises (one each in Poland and Lithuania)
- Air assault by the British Royal Marines at the Polish and Lithuanian border and a river crossing in the same area.
Saber Strike hasn’t gone unnoticed however, On multiple occasions The Russian Air Force have scrambled SU-27 Fighters to intercept B52 and B1 aircraft over the Baltic sea. All occasions have passed with international law playing out.
Tensions between NATO and Moscow are at the lowest point they have been since the end of the Cold War. This hasn’t been helped by allegations of Russian involvement in the recent US Presidential elections.
Moscow has been recently hostile to what it see’s as a growing NATO presence around its borders.