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Jun 10 2023

A Tale of two forces: USS Ford carrier strike group navigating far north under nato command while allies execute baltops23

While the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group is conducting interoperability and integration exercises in the High North under NATO Alliance command and control, 20 nations are conducting hundreds of training events across the Baltic region during the premier regional maritime-focused exercise Baltic Operations 2023, BALTOPS 23.

The dynamic operations are all being executed by a single NATO command in Oeiras, Portugal - Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO).

STRIKFORNATO’s concurrent command of the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group operating in the High North, and a large-scale exercise in the Baltic Sea spanning air, land and maritime activity from the Danish Straits to Finland, reflects NATO’s unwavering commitment to regional security and readiness to defend - strengthening the transatlantic bond and the collective power of nations working in lock step with one another in mutual support - Rear Admiral James Morley, Deputy Commander STRIKFORNATO


As an integrator of carrier strike, amphibious strike, and maritime strike plus Integrated Air and Ballistic Missile Defence (IAMD/BMD) capability into NATO, STRIKFORNATO supports the Joint Force Commands (JFC) to provide deterrence and defence for the Alliance. The past week has proven the command’s ability to command and control the largest aircraft carrier in the world while simultaneously executing the critical annual exercise in the Baltic.

Gerald R. Ford, operating under NATO’s flag, demonstrates the Alliance’s ability to integrate the high-end capabilities of the first-in-class carrier, its surface escorts, and embarked air wing, during a series of planned activities and training operations designed to build familiarity with operating in the High North.

Routinely transferring authority of deployed carrier strike groups to NATO enhances interoperability and improves the defensive capability of the Allies by building the necessary skills of each crew and ship-board commander to operate under the NATO structure.

Today’s global environment requires the ability to rapidly deploy and sustain operations from great distances,” said STRIKFORNATO operations officer Col. Jonathan Dowd. Through collaborative efforts such as Gerald R. Ford’s seamless transition to NATO command we reinforce the interchangeability of allied forces and agility in command and control structures. The short notice transfer of a carrier strike group under STRIKFORNATO’s command and control demonstrates the inherent flexibility of the U.S. Navy and NATO to conduct operations whenever and wherever we choose, giving Allies flexibility in deterrence and defense options.

While commanding Gerald R. Ford, STRIKFORNATO is simultaneously leading the execution of BALTOPS 23. Starting in 1972, BALTOPS is an annual exercise that visibly demonstrates NATO's commitment to preserving regional peace and security by exercising a team of international forces that can rapidly respond in a time of crisis.

This year’s iteration encompasses 19 NATO nations, NATO partner Sweden, 50 ships, more than 45 aircraft, and 6,000 personnel. Since kicking off on June 4, participants have executed hundreds of training events around the Baltic region.

Adding up to more than 15,000 hours of planning in total, officers from more than 20 nations came together to serve the Alliance with one goal, BALTOPS 23 constitutes the perfect opportunity to deliver high-end maritime training across the entire spectrum of naval warfare, said STRIKFORNATO BALTOPS lead planning officer Cmdr. Dag M. Baroey, NOR-N.

While the Ford Carrier Strike Group provides an inherently flexible and maneuverable naval force with unparalleled maritime strike capability to meet upcoming missions, deter potential adversaries, and reassure NATO’s one billion citizens, BALTOPS 23 constitutes the ideal training opportunity to enhance NATO's commitment to preserving regional peace and security by exercising a team of international forces that can rapidly respond in a time of crisis.

STRIKFORNATO is not only integrating maritime strike capability, but also harmonizing NATO Alliance activities. Since executing their first Neptune-series event in September 2021, Neptune Challenge, STRIKFORNATO and the entire NATO Alliance, have been steadily increasing the complexity and operational capacity of the activities in order to deter and defend.


As the security of the High North, the Baltic region, and the broader Euro-Atlantic cannot be achieved by any single nation alone, NATO brings together the collective defence capabilities of 31 nations to safeguard deterrence and defence strategic objectives in the area.

STRIKFORNATO, headquartered at Oeiras, Portugal, is a rapidly deployable and scalable headquarters, under the operational command of SACEUR, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations including maritime Ballistic Missile Defence, primarily through integration of U.S. and other nation’s carrier and amphibious forces into NATO operations to provide assurance, deterrence, and collective defence for the Alliance.


Story by Afonso Morango, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO Public Affairs

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