By Carla Babb | VOA News |
NORFOLK NAVAL STATION, VIRGINIA – A major military exercise involving maritime forces from 18 countries is underway in the Baltic Sea, but at its helm is not a fleet permanently based in Europe, but one based half a world away in the U.S. state of Virginia.
Baltic Operations, known as BALTOPS, is one of the largest exercises in northern Europe: 50 ships, two submarines, 36 aircraft, and more than 8,000 troops.
The exercise, which started Sunday and runs through June 21, is steeped in nearly five decades of tradition. And the U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet has traveled from the U.S. East Coast to the region to lead the exercises. The fleet was made operational just last month, as increased activity by Russian and Chinese navies worried Washington.
“I can be with a small part of my staff on board this ship, or on board an aircraft carrier, or an austere location somewhere else,” U.S. Vice Admiral Andrew “Woody” Lewis, the commander of 2nd Fleet, told VOA in Norfolk, Virginia, before heading to the exercises.