Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) commenced NATO-led activity Neptune Strike 2022 from the SIXTHFLT flagship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), Jan. 24. Neptune Strike 2022 highlights the natural evolution of NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of a carrier strike group to support the defense of the Alliance. Neptune Strike 2022 accomplishes the long-planned handover of command and control of the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) from SIXTHFLT to STRIKFORNATO and the wider Alliance. It represents a strong sign of transatlantic unity and readiness. The activity is planned to run until 4 Feb.
“Neptune Challenge gave our staffs an incredible opportunity to learn and grow together aboard our flagship, Mount Whitney. The lessons we took from Neptune Challenge led directly into our execution of Neptune Strike, and I look forward to watching this combined team work to command and control high-end forces in real time,” said Rear Adm. James Morley, deputy commander, STRIKFORNATO.
“The capability of SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO combined staffs to enable a handover of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group demonstrates the power and cohesiveness of our maritime forces and the NATO Alliance. NATO’s command and control of a Carrier Strike Group is the result of decades of Alliance maritime interoperability,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, SIXTHFLT and STRIKFORNATO.
Neptune Strike 2022 is the execution phase of a long series of activities known as Project Neptune, conceptualized in 2020. The activity focuses on overcoming the complexities of integrating command and control of a carrier strike group to NATO. Previous events in the Neptune series include table-top exercises at SIXTHFLT headquarters in Naples, Italy, last year, and a STRIKFORNATO embark in 2021 aboard Mount Whitney called Neptune Challenge. Neptune Challenge integrated the two staffs aboard Mount Whitney in the Black Sea and developed the necessary procedures enabling the successful start of Neptune Strike.
The Sixth Fleet is a numbered fleet of the United States Navy operating as part of United States Naval Forces Europe. The Sixth Fleet is headquartered at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy. The officially stated mission of the Sixth Fleet in 2011 is that it “conducts the full range of Maritime Operations and Theater Security Cooperation missions, in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other parties, in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa.” Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal, is Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s (SACEUR) premier, rapidly deployable and flexible, maritime power projection Headquarters, capable of planning and executing full spectrum joint maritime operations.