The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group went under NATO command on Friday as part of the Neptune Strike 2022 exercise series, the deputy Pentagon press spokesperson announced.
“Neptune Strike 2022.2 and the Neptune series continues to enable multiple and unique theater-wide training opportunities necessary to integrate the high-end maritime warfare capabilities of these carrier strike groups to support alliances deterrence, and defense requirements in Europe,” Sabrina Singh told reporters Friday.
The exercise officially started Friday at the Strike Force NATO headquarters in Oeiras, Portugal, according to a U.S. 6th Fleet news release. Besides the U.S., Albania, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom are expected to participate.
The news release did not say what the carrier strike group will do as part of the exercise beyond performing “vigilance activities.”
“The Neptune Series of peacetime vigilance activities, integrating carrier strike and amphibious strike capability into NATO operations, has become routine work for this battle staff – generating effects in the maritime, air and land domains, providing deterrence and reassurance, and offering powerful opportunities for Allied interoperability,” Strike Force NATO deputy commander Royal Navy Rear Adm. James Morley said in the release.
Neptune Strike 2022.2 is the fourth Neptune Project exercise to happen in 2022, with all but one occurring after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. NATO also held two Project Neptune exercises in 2021.
“The Neptune series is a tangible demonstration of the power and capability of the NATO Alliance in all domain operations,” 6th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, who leads Strike Force NATO, said in the release. “Neptune Strike 22.2 is a prime example of NATO’s ability to integrate high-end maritime warfare capabilities of an allied carrier strike group, ensuring our collective ability to deter and defend.”
This is the third time that NATO has assumed command of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in 2022 and the third time since the end of the Cold War. NATO previously commanded the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group during two other iterations of Project Neptune, USNI News previously reported.
Neptune Strike 2022.2 kicks off at the same time as nuclear exercise Steadfast Noon, another NATO exercise. Steadfast Noon involves aircraft from 14 different countries, according to a NATO news release. The training will take place over Belgium, the United Kingdom and the North Sea. The U.S. will send B-52 bombers, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Thursday.
Russia is also expected to conduct its own nuclear exercise, called Grom, this month, Kirby said.
The George H.W. Bush CSG deployed to the Mediterranean Sea in August, replacing the Harry S. Truman CSG, which had been operating there since December.
The George H.W. Bush CSG includes flagship USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun (DDG-103), USS Farragut (DDG-96) and USS Nitze (DDG-94). Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 is embarked on Bush.