A pair of U.S. Navy destroyers joined a German frigate in the Baltic Sea recently for “division tactics, maneuvering drills, flight operations, and communication exercises,” according to a U.S. Navy press release. The exercises, though brief, come at a crucial time for Europe.
The USS Forrest Sherman and the USS Donald Cook, two of the Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, joined the FGS Sachsen, a German Navy Sachsen-class air-defense frigate. The German frigate has an advanced design that incorporates stealthy features and is intended to foil an opponent’s acoustic detection capabilities and radar. The two American ships are part of the U.S. Navy’s sixth fleet, stationed in Naples, Italy.
“My team was excited to put our navigation and seamanship skills to the test while operating with FGS Sachsen,” explained the Forrest Sherman’s Commander, Greg Page. “The bridge and combat teams worked in sync to provide seamless integration between the units. Operating together in the Baltic Sea was a great opportunity to continue building the maritime strength of the NATO Alliance.”
The joint exercise allowed the American vessels to practice and improve their interoperability with the German Navy. They placed a particular emphasis on signals recognition and communication. In order to enhance interoperability, the ships went through tactical maneuvers while sailing together in formation.
“Exercises with our NATO partners are a key component in demonstrating the Alliance’s resolve and commitment to overall readiness,” explained Matthew Curnen, Commander of the Donald Cook. “Having the agility and determination to efficiently operate with Allied naval forces–at any time in international waters–ensures that we can execute any tasking when called upon.”
Trouble on the Continent
The exercises come at a particularly important time. Europe, experiencing the most significant conflict since World War II, is very much on edge. American attention—even attention far removed from the scene of the conflict—likely has a deterring effect that is welcome in European capital cities.
The U.S. Navy announcement said as much, explaining that “the NATO Alliance is postured to deter–and if required defend against–any threat to Alliance territory and populations. These exercises enhance the relationships and seamless interoperability between Allied navies.”
Though the possibility might be remote, a broader European conflagration would certainly involve the continent’s navies. Better Euro-American cooperation could help stave off that possibility, unlikely as it may be.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.