There’s little question but that warships assigned to the strike group, including Arleigh Burke-class destroyers equipped with Standard Missile 3 anti-ballistic missiles, may enter the Black Sea. USS Harry S. Truman was slated to pass through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea and beyond, but has been held back in the Mediterranean Sea for confrontation with Russia, As noted below, the exercise described will be conducted under the dual-hatted command of the top commander of Strikeforce NATO and the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

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Neptune Strike ’22 Kicks off Monday in Mediterranean

Starting Monday, NATO partners, including the United States, kick off the 12-day maritime exercise “Neptune Strike ’22” in the Mediterranean Sea, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing today.

The USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, along with it’s carrier strike group and air wing will be the Defense Department’s primary contribution to the exercise. The exercise will be led by U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Eugene H. Black III, who serves as Strikeforce NATO commander and also commander of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet.

“[Neptune Strike ’22] is designed to demonstrate NATO’s ability to integrate the high-end maritime strike capabilities of an aircraft carrier strike group…,” Kirby told reporters. “The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group will be placed under NATO operational control and serve as the centerpiece for this long-planned activity that fosters NATO allies’ ability to cooperate and integrate effectively.”

Neptune Strike ’22 has been in the planning stages since 2020, Kirby said, though he told reporters that the current tensions in Europe due to the uncertainty about Russia’s intentions regarding Ukraine were considered when deciding whether to press on with the exercise.

“There was due consideration….given tensions right now, about our exercise posture,” he said. “After all that consideration and discussion with our NATO allies, the decision was made to move ahead.”

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“We’re going to make sure that we have options ready to reassure our allies, particularly on NATO’s eastern flank,” Kirby said. “If there’s another incursion and if they need that reassurance, if they need the capabilities to be bolstered, we’re going to do that. And we’re going to make sure that we’re ready to do that.”

Photograph: Defense Department