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May 27 2021

Steadfast Defender 2021 hosts Distinguished Visitors Day

LISBON, Portugal – Allied Command Operations (ACO), led by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), hosted distinguished visitors to the maritime live exercise phase of NATO's flagship exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

The maritime component of exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 began May 20 in the waters off the Portuguese coast. The maritime live exercise demonstrates the power, adaptability, cohesion and responsiveness of NATO maritime forces.

Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 is part of NATO's effort to develop, strengthen and demonstrate the military capabilities of NATO Allies, and their ability to work together to keep our nations safe in a fast-evolving security environment.

The distinguished visitors day, which included the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Portuguese Minister of Defence João Gomes Cravinho amongst numerous NATO and Allied commanders, began with a command briefing from Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Tod D. Wolters, Commander Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples Admiral Robert P. Burke, and Commander JFC Norfolk Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis. All three commanders highlighted the importance of Allied interoperability and training as it pertains to deterrence and defence.

We are ready for every crisis, every declaration of the security situation and this is why we train

Following the brief, the commanders and distinguished guests joined members of the media on board the United Kingdom's carrier strike group flagship, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The maritime phase of exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 represents the first time the HMS Queen Elizabeth is participating in a NATO exercise.

During a briefing given to media on May 26, Vice Admiral Lewis spoke about the importance of the carrier participating in the exercise, "This fine ship is also a representation of an increase in NATO's capability and high-end maritime deterrence capabilities."

He continued stating that with the ships, aircraft, personnel and commands participating, the live exercise focused on "high-end warfighting skills in the maritime domain."

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Distinguished visitors boarded HMS Queen Elizabeth for Exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 on Thursday, May 27, 2021 - Photo by NATO HQ 
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Visit to the Portuguese Air Force "Air Museum".  Director of the museum, Carlos Mouta Raposo with Secretary Genera Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of Defence of Portugal, João Gomes Cravinho - Photo by NATO HQ 
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Allied Command Operations hosted distinguished visitors to the maritime live exercise phase of Steadfast Defender 2021 on Thursday, May 27, 2021.  Here attendees watched a F-35 launch from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth - Photo by NATO HQ

While the distinguished visitor day centred on the maritime phase of exercise Steadfast Defender 2021, SHAPE Vice Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Brice Houdet, touted the complexity and integration of domains throughout the exercise. "We are a defensive Alliance who is 360 degrees. We are threat agnostic, we are ready for every crisis, every declaration of the security situation and this is why we train. This is why we do this exercise."

Lieutenant General Houdet highlighted the importance of NATO and its Allies continued modernisation to prepare for unknown future threats, adding that the integration of ACO's two newest commands, JFC Norfolk in Virginia, U.S.A and Joint Support and Enabling Command (JSEC) in Ulm, Germany increases the readiness, range and lethality of NATO forces.

During a demonstration on board HMS Queen Elizabeth, guests and media witnessed an F-35B fifth-generation jet take off from the deck of the ship, reinforcing the importance of NATO's deterrence and defence posture and capabilities.

JFC Naples, as the headquarters responsible for the execution of exercise Steadfast Defender 2021, has a vested interest in the successful integration of the three phases of the exercise as well as the increased readiness resulting from high-tempo training.

When building the exercise scenario, planners across ACO considered the existing capabilities of potential adversaries to ensure NATO forces were prepared for any eventuality.

Admiral Robert P. Burke, commander JFC Naples, spoke about the importance of exercises like Steadfast Defender 2021 and their impact on deterrence and defence. "Not only are we credible and competent but we have the will to use those forces," Admiral Burke explained during the media briefing.

The breadth and scope of exercise Steadfast Defender 2021 ensures the continued provision of credible deterrence and defence across the Alliance. It is part of NATO's effort to develop, strengthen and demonstrate the military capabilities of NATO Allies, and their ability to work together to keep our nations safe in a fast-evolving security environment.

Vice Admiral Lewis closed his remarks saying, "We have moved into a new era. JFC Norfolk and [U.S.] 2nd Fleet stand as the operational embodiment of the trans-Atlantic bridge that connects the most successful Alliance in history."

Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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