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NATO task groups come together off Norway coast

Two potent task groups proved their strength to defend Arctic waters and shorelines from threats when they came together as part of NATO exercises. Picture: LPhot Belinda Alker
14 March 2024
Two potent task groups proved their strength to defend Arctic waters and shorelines from threats when they came together as part of NATO exercises.

The UK Carrier Strike Group, led by HMS Prince of Wales, was joined by a NATO Amphibious Task Group and a range of aircraft off the coast of Norway as part of Exercise Nordic Response.

The formation of more than 10 ships from eight nations gave the men and women on board the chance to practise close manoeuvres - overcoming language barriers and different ways of operating at sea.

In a show of might for NATO and it partners, the exercise allowed the vessels and their aircraft to demonstrate their ability to defend allied territory while simultaneously defending themselves from potential enemies.

Taking part were: Royal Navy ships HMS Prince of Wales, frigate HMS Portland, Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Tidespring and amphibious landing ship RFA Mounts Bay; Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbon; German replenishment ship FGS Bonn; Norwegian frigate HNoMS Otto Sverdrup, corvette HNoMS Gnist, patrol vessels HNoMS Olav Tyrggvason and HNoMS Magnus Lagabote; Norwegian coast guard ship KV Bjornoya; Dutch support ship HNLMS Karel Doorman; Italian aircraft carrier ITS Giuseppe Garibaldi; French frigate FS Normadie; and US destroyer USS Paul Ignatius.

There was also a fly past by Swedish JSA-39 Gripens and Finnish F-18 Hornets.

I can’t think of a better symbol of NATO unity, trust, and resolve than these ships coming together

Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group

Commodore James Blackmore, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “This has been the largest maritime manoeuvre of Exercise Steadfast Defender 24, amalgamating the UK Carrier Strike Group, the Amphibious Task Group, Norwegian and allied vessels, all over flown by a multitude of fixed wing aircraft from the alliance.

“These manoeuvres are challenging to plan but make for a stirring sight when they come together and demonstrating the might of capability.

“I can’t think of a better symbol of NATO unity, trust, and resolve than these ships coming together; it really embodies what Steadfast Defender has achieved so far and will continue to do so over the coming months.”

Capturing the 15 ships and several aircraft on camera to document the massed sailing fell to three Royal Navy photographers deployed with the UK Carrier Strike Group.

LPhot Stuart Dickson said: “Photographing and filming a formation of this size was a first for me as a RN photographer, with the added challenge of capturing the fixed wing aircraft as they passed over the assembled ships.

“The Merlin aircrew who were flying us were really helpful, manoeuvring whenever we asked and giving us all the angles that we needed.

“The whole of Exercise Steadfast Defender has been a great experience as a photographer – from the Norwegian fjords, humpback whales and the Northern Lights on top of all the NATO maritime and air activity there has been to capture.”

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