"CAOC Uedem has been assigned the lead in planning, coordinating, controlling and monitoring the air operations integrated into the BALTOPS exercise enabling realistic multi-domain training of approximately 7,000 personnel from NATO Allies and Partner nations," said Colonel Wilhelm May, the Exercise Air Director at the CAOC, who also oversaw the air play during the 50th edition of BALTOPS in 2021.
"This year, we are controlling the 'air-heaviest' BALTOPS scenario in the history of the exercise, with a total of more than 75 Allied and Partner aircraft operating from sea-based and land-based platforms. We are planning over 400 sorties which more than doubles our sorties from last year," said Colonel May. "The missions we are controlling cover the whole spectrum from air-maritime, air-air and air-to-ground to anti-submarine, air-to-air refuelling and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drills. We have up to 40 aircraft airborne in one 3-hour serial," he added underlining the complexity of his team's task.
An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 492nd Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Wing, takes off from the flight line at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, June 14, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Jacob Wood)
The growth in aircraft sorties is also facilitated by the fact that – for the second time – BALTOPS integrates the German-led Multinational Air Group Days (MAGDAYs) generating additional sorties in support of the joint maritime-led training drills. Fighter jets from Germany, Belgium, Turkey, the United States and Partners Finland and Sweden as well as NATO E-3A and tanker aircraft are involved in this training event within the NATO concept of the Multinational Air Group for which German is a framework nation.
"While the MAGDAY integration into BALTOPS means an increased coordination and integration effort for the maritime and air assets, it also enhances the complexity and quality of exercise objectives for all participants," Colonel May concluded.
Besides this recurring task of controlling air activities during multinational exercises, the CAOC is responsible for NATO Air Policing in central and northern Europe ensuring the integrity of NATO's airspace and contributing to deterrence and defense efforts.