There was an impressive gathering of European NATO naval might in the Mediterranean last month (Nov) as Italy prepares to lead the Alliance’s maritime NATO Response Force (NRF) next year. It was during the latest Dynamic Mariner exercise and, according to a NATO source, ‘a wide range of advanced naval assets took part.’
These included around 30 warships, not least the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour, and submarines, along with helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft – both AV-8B Harriers and F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters – plus ‘more than 6,000 troops, staff officers and observers from a total of 14 Allied nations,’ said NATO. “The NRF Maritime is part of NATO’s very high readiness force,” explained Commander NATO Maritime Command (MARCOM), Vice Admiral Mike Utley of the Royal Navy. “It is immediately ready to respond to changing circumstances, and that can be anything from humanitarian disaster relief, right up to crisis and warfighting.” The current NRF Maritime lead nation is Turkey.