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First Part of Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 Wraps Up in the Atlantic

04 June 2021

From Joint Force Command Norfolk Public Affairs

ATLANTIC OCEAN - Part one of a three-part Steadfast Defender exercise, ended near the coast of Portugal, May 30. Part one was a dynamic maritime multi-domain collective defense exercise led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, involving 19 ships from 11 allied nations and including more than 5,000 participants.

Ships from NATO Exercise Steadfast Defender 21 sail in formation.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS The Sullivans with the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group joined ships with NATO Standing Maritime Groups One and Two for an impressive display of maritime power in the Eastern Atlantic on 28 May 2021. The rendezvous was part of Steadfast Defender 21, a large scale defensive exercise designed to test NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America to the coast of Portugal and the Black Sea region. (Royal Navy photography by LPhot Unaisi Luke)
Ships from NATO Exercise Steadfast Defender 21 sail in formation.
210528-M-M0891-1012
HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS The Sullivans with the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group joined ships with NATO Standing Maritime Groups One and Two for an impressive display of maritime power in the Eastern Atlantic on 28 May 2021. The rendezvous was part of Steadfast Defender 21, a large scale defensive exercise designed to test NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America to the coast of Portugal and the Black Sea region. (Royal Navy photography by LPhot Unaisi Luke)
Photo By: LPhot Unaisi Luke
VIRIN: 210528-M-MO891-1012


Commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk, Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, in support of NATO, led this year’s Steadfast Defender 21.

“Steadfast Defender provides an excellent opportunity for the Allies to strengthen an already strong relationship by engaging in multi-domain, interoperability training. It also plays a critical role on the path to interchangeability as the way we will ensure our collective defense in the future,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis.

Steadfast Defender 2021 is a three-part series of multilateral military exercises taking place in the Atlantic and Europe. Part one is the maritime component focused on trans-Atlantic reinforcements. Part two focuses on the enablement of Supreme Allied Commander Europe Area of Responsibility (SACEUR), military mobility and the deployment of the NATO Response Force. Part three consists of additional multinational training which includes the U.S.-led exercise Saber Guardian in Romania in which NATO allies and partner nations perform redeployment operations back to their home stations.

During part one, the Allies focused on the ability to reinforce Europe with troops and resources from North America while Europe faced a simulated maritime attack. The HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group conducted a scripted attack while NATO Navy assets simulated a defense.

With a set defense, the Allies secured the sea lines of communication to deliver troops and resources on station on time. This simulation tested NATO’s adapted command structure and the unity and cooperation between North American and European NATO Allies.

Ships participating in the NATO exercise Steadfast Defender 21 participate in an group sail.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS The Sullivans with the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group joined ships with NATO Standing Maritime Groups One and Two for an impressive display of maritime power in the Eastern Atlantic on 28 May 2021. The rendezvous was part of Steadfast Defender 21, a large scale defensive exercise designed to test NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America to the coast of Portugal and the Black Sea region. (Royal Navy photography by LPhot Unaisi Luke)
Ships participating in the NATO exercise Steadfast Defender 21 participate in an group sail.
210528-M-M0891-1004
HMS Queen Elizabeth and USS The Sullivans with the United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group joined ships with NATO Standing Maritime Groups One and Two for an impressive display of maritime power in the Eastern Atlantic on 28 May 2021. The rendezvous was part of Steadfast Defender 21, a large scale defensive exercise designed to test NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy forces from North America to the coast of Portugal and the Black Sea region. (Royal Navy photography by LPhot Unaisi Luke)
Photo By: LPhot Unaisi Luke
VIRIN: 210528-N-MO891-1004
U.S. 2nd Fleet served as the Maritime Component Command in tactical control of assigned units during the exercise. Employing maritime forces, ready to fight, across multiple domains in the Atlantic to ensure access, deter aggression, and defend U.S., allied and partner interests.

This is the first time 2nd Fleet has acted as the MCC in a NATO-led joint multi-lateral exercise. Canadian Rear Adm. Steven Waddell, vice commander of 2nd Fleet, led the team embarked on MCC effort aboard the command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).

“NATO is the bedrock of our enduring trans-Atlantic security and serves to underpin our shared values of democracy and the rule of law,” said Waddell. “2nd Fleet’s role as the MCC for the exercise demonstrates our commitment to NATO. And our capability to coordinate Allied forces collectively assures security in the Atlantic.”

Lewis said he was very pleased with the execution of Steadfast Defender, and impressed with the professionalism of all those involved.
“This live maritime training event tested our ability to fortify our seams in order to grow stronger as an Alliance, which was an impressive culmination of the planning efforts of our collective NATO team,” said Lewis.

There are several notable facts about STDE 21:

• The Maritime Air Operations Cell conducted more than 150 aircraft flights.

• Service members and assets from 11 NATO allied and partner nations were involved in the maritime live exercise.

• The MCC simulated Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) exercises against targets.

• Sixty-six staff members from 2nd Fleet embarked aboard the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) in the Atlantic Ocean to command and control the exercise.

• Participating units included:

o MCC: U.S. 2nd Fleet onboard USS Mount Whitney

o UKCSG: UK - HMS Queen Elizabeth with embarked UK airwing,
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, HMS Diamond, HMS Richmond, HMS Kent, USS The Sullivans, HNLMS Evertsen, RFA Fort Victoria, RFA Tidespring

o IWOARG: USS Iwo Jima, USS San Antonio, USS Carter Hall

o SNMG1: Canada - HMCS Halifax, Denmark – HDMS Absalon

o SNMG2: Spain – ESPS Mendez Nunez

o France - FS Normandie

o Portugal: NRP Alvarez Cabral, NRP Tridente

o Italy: ITS Andea Doria

o Germany: FGS Brandenburg

o Air Forces: Spanish Air Force – F/A 18, EF-2000; Portuguese Air Force – F-16, P2C-CUP; Turkish Air Force, US tanker, NATO E-3

o Aircraft: FRA Atlantique, US P-8, PRT P-3C, Joint Strike Fighter F-35B

Steadfast Defender 2021 is NATO’s flagship exercise for 2021, and focuses on collective defense based on a NATO Article 5 scenario. STDE 21 is the first in a new series of long-planned NATO exercises to ensure forces are trained, able to operate together, and ready to respond to any threat from any direction. This exercise demonstrates the value of North America and Europe working together to keep nations safe in a more challenging security environment, and seeks to enhance interoperability and military capabilities on air, land, and sea among NATO members for the purpose of deterring potential adversaries and assuring allies of NATO’s ability to defend them.

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