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16/06/23: Navy tests unmanned rescue boat in Baltic Sea

The U.S. Navy experimented with an unmanned rescue boat during its recent BALTOPS sea exercises, highlighting advancements in technology designed to increase the safety of U.S. service members.

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BALTOPS is a two-week annual exercise led by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa and the U.S 6th Fleet, with 19 other countries participating in the event. The U.S. Department of Defense describes BALTOPS 23 as the “premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region,” adding that the exercise provides NATO forces with a “unique training opportunity” that is designed to strengthen the combined response of NATO countries in the Baltic Sea.

According to Stars and Stripes, the Navy is testing inexpensive unmanned boats that can be used to rescue sailors in emergency events, reducing the risk of search-and-rescue operations that typically require additional service members being placed in danger.

“There are a lot of scenarios where we don’t know if we can get recovery vehicles in safely, because of combat threats,” Joe Klein, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa’s PR program manager, said. “That’s where unmanned systems have a lot of potential – if you can’t do a manned recovery, you can assume some more risk with an unmanned vehicle. The military in general is working on building a capability to recover aviators who go down in high-threat areas, where we’ve been denied access, and I think the USV is a possible solution to that dilemma.”

Maj. Gen. Daniel Lasica, director of strategy, plans and policy for U.S. European Command, explained that the recent exercise “feeds into how we think about modifying those plans, adjusting strategy, moving forward as well.”

The BALTOPS training exercises first started in 1972. BALTOPS 23 marked the 52nd combined training exercise in the region, providing NATO and partner nations with the training needed to increase safety and effectiveness in situations with combined military operations, such as Joint Personnel Recovery.

“JPR itself is really important to NATO and to the U.S., because it demonstrates our commitment to our people,” Klein said. “Our most valuable weapon systems are our people. In combat scenarios, we may put them in harm’s way, so we need to make sure that we have the ability to bring them back. We need to practice for when things go wrong, so when they don’t go according to plan, we have the capability to respond efficiently and effectively.”

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