The aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and its strike group will team up with NATO forces next week in the Mediterranean Sea to launch a new maritime exercise: Neptune Strike ‘22.
The exercise, which has been in the works since 2020 and isn’t in response to rising tension with Russia, will place the Truman and its carrier strike group under NATO operational control, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. The carrier strike group will function as the “centerpiece” of the exercise promoting interoperability between allies, he said.
The exercise comprises maritime maneuvers, anti-submarine warfare training, and long-range strike training.
“It’s 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,” Kirby told reporters Jan. 21.
“All of the training events will highlight the continual and steady progression of alliance cohesion in a high end and dynamic environment,” Kirby said.
Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, led by 6th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Gene Black, is overseeing the exercise.
The drill will conclude on Feb. 4.
The NATO exercise coincides with rising tension with Moscow and fear that Russia will invade Ukraine. Russia has beefed up forces near the border of Ukraine — amassing approximately 100,000 troops — and is poised to kick off its own massive naval exercise later this month.
According to Russia’s defense ministry, the exercise will require more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on Friday in Geneva, and Blinken said afterwards that he believes they’ve established a “clearer path to understanding each other’s positions,” although no agreement was brokered.
Blinken said the U.S. and its allies remain resolute in rejecting Russia’s most important demands, which were reiterated Friday. Moscow wants NATO to promise that Ukraine will never be added as a member, that no alliance weapons will be deployed near Russian borders, and that it pull back its forces from Central and Eastern Europe.
The Pentagon said Neptune’s Strike ‘22 was not crafted in response to Russia’s recent actions, although Kirby admitted officials weighed calling it off in light of the tense environment. Even so, the exercise is “not designed against any of the kinds of scenarios that might happen with respect to Ukraine,” Kirby said.
Guided-missile destroyers Bainbridge, Cole, Gravely, Jason Dunham, guided-missile cruiser San Jacinto, along with Carrier Air Wing 1 and staff from Carrier Strike Group 8, compose the Truman’s strike group.
The Royal Norwegian Navy’s frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen also deployed with the strike group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.