U.S. F-18s carry out Adriatic-to-Baltic training run

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NATO forces were demonstrating their potential rapid reach February when two U.S. F-18 fighters travelled from an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic to an army base just outside Rīga in Latvia, according to a press release from NATO. 

At the Ādaži military base, the resident NATO Battlegroup's Close Air Support Controller (JTAC) coordinated a simulated close air support attack run. The F-18 fighters were not equipped with combat munitions.

The NATO Battlegroup stationed in Latvia is a multinational unit that has been in Latvia on a rotational basis since 2017.

The F-18 long-range simulated strike was part of the Neptune Strike 22 exercises, launched by NATO's Naval Support and Strike Force (STRIKFORNATO) on 24 January. 

According to the U.S. Department of Defense Neptune Strike '22 is "designed to demonstrate NATO's ability to integrate the high-end maritime strike capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group to support the deterrence and defense of the alliance."

USS Harry S. Truman
USS Harry S. Truman

One of the key elements of the Neptune Strike 22 is the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman of the US Navy's 6th Fleet, which is temporarily under NATO operational control. It was from that carrier in the Adriatic that the planes carried out their mission in the Baltic.

Though the Neptune Strike 22 exercises have been planned since 2020, they come with extra resonance with Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine in both Russia itself and in Belarus, close to NATO's eastern border with the Baltic states.


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