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By Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO Public Affairs and U.S. Sixth Fleet Public Affairs
Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) and U.S. Sixth Fleet (SIXTHFLT) concluded nine days of Vigilance Activity Neptune Strike 2023-1 (NEST 23.1), the ninth phase of NATO’s long-planned Project Neptune series of activities, Feb. 28.
During Neptune Strike 2023-1 (NEST 23.1), 31 ships, 135 aircraft, and 8,386 Sailors and Marines from 21 countries demonstrated deterrence and assurance through execution of a broad spectrum of sea, air, and land activities. These activities prove that the maritime partnerships of the NATO Alliance, now operating in its seventh decade, remain as strong and relevant as ever.
"I'm proud of this team's performance in displaying interchangeability while conducting extremely complex high-end activities," said Vice Adm. Ishee, commander of both STRIKFORNATO and U.S. Sixth Fleet. “The security environment is uncertain; NATO's capability and will is not. Enabled by trust, the agility, ingenuity and tenacity demonstrated by the Sailors, Marines, and Airmen deter aggression and show we are ready to defend the Alliance.”
This latest iteration of the Project Neptune series centered on the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group, Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, and Spanish amphibious assault ship ESPS Juan Carlos I, all operating in the Mediterranean Sea. Supporting units from Greece, Türkiye, Croatia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Albania all contributed forces, underscoring cohesive alliance integration.
In the Baltic Sea, the first in-class guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and German frigate FGS Hessen demonstrated NATO’s ability to coordinate across vast distances and differing environments to deter aggression and deliver deterrence and defense of the Alliance. The ships participated in complex simulated targeting exercises where they engaged and destroyed a Danish drone aircraft, validating NATO’s ability to conduct integrated air and missile defense.
On Feb. 23, French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, operating under French national command, joined the three NATO strike groups sailing in the Mediterranean, increasing the allied aircraft carrier count in the region to four. Over the course of two days, the Charles de Gaulle, along with her embarked air wing of Rafale fighter aircraft, coordinated with the other three carriers to perform simulated carrier strike and carrier defense activities, strengthening collective defense.
In total, 37 vigilance activities took place over the course of NEST 23.1, consisting of 198 aircraft sorties, two joint personnel recovery exercises, and two simulated tri-carrier strike operations. The tri-carrier strikes mark the first time three aircraft carriers have performed simulated strikes of this nature with NATO. NEST 23.1 proved that NATO has both the resolve and technical capabilities to answer any threat, anywhere, at any time.
While the numbers are impressive, what the successful execution of NEST 23.1 represents is the determination of NATO as one alliance to defend all of its member states through advanced capabilities and interchangeability.
NEST 23.1 is the natural evolution of NATO's ability to integrate the high-end maritime strike capabilities of Allied aircraft carrier strike groups and expeditionary strike groups to support the defense of the Alliance.
Vigilance Activities are day-to-day activities, occurring in all domains and across SACEUR’s area of responsibility, to ensure appropriate strategic awareness and force readiness required to sustain peace.
For over 80 years, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVEUR-NAVAF) has forged strategic relationships with allies and partners, leveraging a foundation of shared values to preserve security and stability.
Headquartered in Naples, Italy, NAVEUR-NAVAF operates U.S. naval forces in the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) areas of responsibility. U.S. Sixth Fleet is permanently assigned to NAVEUR-NAVAF, and employs maritime forces through the full spectrum of joint and naval operations.
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.