By LTJG Matthew Johnston
Patrol Squadron (VP) FOUR participated in the NATO Exercise BALTOPS 16 from 3-18 June. BALTOPS is an annually occurring exercise that is designed to enhance interoperability and demonstrate the ability of partner and allied nations to defend the Baltic region. The Skinny Dragons of VP-4 deployed two Combat Aircrews, 18 aircraft maintenance professionals, and one P-3C Orion to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany and established Task Group (CTG) 67.2. Joining the Skinny Dragons as members of CTG 67.2 was a P-8A Poseidon from VP-26, a P-3C from VP-62, and numerous aircraft maintainers from both squadrons. Combat Aircrew Seven (VP-4) also flew one mission out of Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia.
CTG 67.2 aircraft flew 18 missions during the exercise, totally over 67 hours of on station training with NATO and partner forces. The Poseidon and Orion crews flew a diverse set of missions but their primary focus was Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-surface Warfare. The aircrews honed their ASW skills working with three submarines and over 40 surface combatants. The well trained NATO submarine crews and challenging environmental conditions in the Baltic Sea created excellent training opportunities for the P-3C and P-8A aircrews.
“BALTOPS provided our entire team a fantastic training opportunity. The dynamic mission scenarios challenged us and we are now better prepared for combined operations with our NATO allies and partners” remarked Combat Aircrew Ten Mission Commander and Detachment Officer-in-Charge, LCDR Brian Blaschke. “Additionally, a key to our success was our hard working and talented aircraft maintainers; they put our aircrews in a mission ready aircraft every time, on time.”
The Skinny Dragons of VP-4 worked tirelessly to support BALTOPS 16 and are extremely grateful for the opportunity to train with such talented NATO forces and build interoperability. VP-4 looks forward to future operations with NATO allies and partners as we exercise our mutual commitment to Baltic Security.
- BALTOPS is an annually recurring multinational exercise designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, as well as demonstrate resolve of allied and partner forces to defend the Baltic region. This is the 44th year of the exercise.
- One P-3C Orion aircraft and two aircrews from the “Skinny Dragons” of VP-4 were assigned to participate in BALTOPS 2016. The crews flew Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) operations.
- One P-3C from VP-62 and one P-8A Poseidon from VP-26 also participated in the exercise.
- Combined Task Group (CTG) 67.2 was formed for the exercise and is comprised of 92 Sailors from three squadrons. CTG 67.2 was commanded by VP-4 Commanding Officer, Cdr. Christopher Smith.