By Adm. James G. Foggo III
Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Africa
This past week, I had the honor of spending time with one of our country’s top maritime allies, the Royal Navy. Our relationship with the United Kingdom and specifically the Royal Navy is built on our mutual commitment to maintaining sea control and protecting freedom of navigation for all countries. And once again, our alliance is called upon to enforce these internationally held beliefs as Russian seeks to threaten stability and maritime security in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland. Clyde is essentially the home of the U.K.’s ballistic submarine fleet and thereby has served a critical role in our strategic deterrence mission during the Cold War and beyond. Faslane, with its strategic location that includes easy access to the North Atlantic, has been supporting U.S. Navy submarine forces, as well as our surface fleet, for many decades.
As a submariner, it was a thrill to return and see our partner’s impressive submarine fleet. I had the opportunity to meet with various leaders, including my good friend Royal Navy Rear Adm. John Weale, who serves as Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Submarines and Rear Admiral Submarines. I had the chance to tour both ballistic and attack Royal Navy submarines and came away impressed not only with the UK’s submarine capabilities, but also with the dedication and skillset of Royal Navy sailors.
The U.K. has provided critical support to our Navy and our NATO allies during operations and exercises that have strengthened our partnership, enhanced our interoperability and maintained the freedom of the seas. As I already mentioned, Faslane’s secluded yet strategically located base allows easy access to the North Atlantic making it a critical base for supporting anti-submarine warfare in the area. This enables U.S. aircraft, surface ships, and submarines to work in concert with our Allies and partners to maintain a common defense against increased Russian submarine activity.
Notably, Faslane has supported a number of U.S. Navy warships in recent years. Since July 2017, 13 warships and numerous submarines have visited Faslane. More importantly, Naval Base Clyde is also close to the Hebrides Range, which allows it to support various high-end warfare exercises. Building on past exercises – UK-lead Joint Warfare and the Maritime Theater Missile Defense Forum-led At Sea Demonstration 15 – we took Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO exercise Formidable Shield (FS) 2017 to new heights… literally and figuratively!
This past October, FS 17 was the first demonstration of NATO’s smart defense concept: ships serving as air defense units protected naval ballistic missile defense units in an integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) environment. Ships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States all participated in a live-fire IAMD scenario, defending against a subsonic anti-ship cruise missile threat. This exercise was an incredible step forward in demonstrating the NATO ballistic missile defense umbrella and highlights our shared commitment to defend our allies against the growing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles.
In a few months, we will be back in the “neighborhood” for one of our most sophisticated, largest, multi-mission, NATO exercises Trident Juncture, where we are anticipating more than 40,000 troops and over 30 NATO member and partner countries, along with 70 ships and about 130 aircraft. The purpose is to ensure that NATO forces are trained, able to operate together and ready to respond to a threat from any direction. We couldn’t successfully execute such high-end warfare exercise without the support of the citizens of Faslane and the professionals at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde. It was truly an honor to visit Scotland, I appreciate all that Scotland does for the Royal Navy, U.S. Navy and NATO ships, submarines and aircraft.
As I’ve said before, NATO is not looking for a fight. But rest assured, we are ready to defend those ideals that we hold paramount to maritime security and regional stability. Our naval strength is as strong as our partnerships, and our partnership with the Royal Navy is ironclad; we are truly stronger together. I look forward to working with the Royal Navy as seeing the White Ensign on Royal Navy warships and submarines on the horizon is always a welcome sight.