USMC Harriers over the Baltic Sea

As part of the international exercise BALTOPS 24, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) deployed a detachment of the US Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jets to Ronneby air base in Sweden. The Harrier deployment was supported by MV-22B Osprey aircraft and ground personnel.

The aforementioned aircraft are assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 365 (Reinforced), 24th MEU (SOC), which is currently being deployed with the US Navy Wasp Amphibious Ready Group (AGR). During its stay in Ronneby, the detachment was capable of self-sustaining and self-deploying in support of various events with NATO Allies during BALTOPS 24.

´Our self-deploying and self-sustaining detachment demonstrates the ARG-MEU’s ability to project force more than 900 nautical miles and establish a forward operating base in the Baltic region,´ said Lt. Col. Cory Jobst, commanding officer, VMM-365 (REIN). ´This expeditionary advanced base is a historic first with our longstanding partner, and newest NATO Ally, Sweden

The Wasp ARG includes two US Navy ships, the USS Wasp (LHD-1) multipurpose amphibious assault ship (the lead ship of the Wasp-class) and the USS New York (LPD-1) amphibious transport dock (San Antonio-class).

The Swedish Air Force personnel had an opportunity to familiarize with the USMC Harriers and Osprey aircraft during a static display held at Ronneby on 10th June 2024. The Harriers also took part in several live-fly trainings over the Baltic Sea, aimed to strengthen combined response capabilities, critical to preserving freedom of navigation and security. In addition, the AV-8Bs participated in an integrated training mission in support of the Bomber Task Force Europe 24-3. Within that exercise, the USMC Harriers and the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighters performed a close escort task for the US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, assigned to the 639th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.

USMC AV-8B Harrier IIs and Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens escort a USAF B-52H Stratofortress over the Baltic Sea (USAF photo by Senior Airman Kyle Wilson)
NATO Partners and Allies flyover the Baltic Sea during BALTOPS 24 (USMC photo by Cpl. Elton Taylor)

On 12th June 2024, the Allied air forces participating in BALTOPS 24, performed a joint fly-over event over the Baltic Sea. The unique formation included USAF B-52 Stratofortress, two Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two Spanish Air Force F-18 Hornets, two Spanish Air Force AV-8B Harriers, two US Marine AV-8B Harriers and two Swedish Air Force JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft.

In addition, on 15th June 2024, the Wasp ARG and the Spanish Navy performed a cross-deck evolution training in the Baltic Sea. During this exercise, Spanish Navy AV-8B Harriers from ESPS Juan Carlos (L 61) multi-purpose aircraft carrier-landing helicopter dock, operated from deck of the USS Wasp assault ship.

BALTOPS 24 is already the 53rd iteration of Baltic Operations, a series of the Alliance´s largest exercises. This year´s edition of the training took place between 7th and 20th June and involved twenty NATO nations and multinational task units composed of more than fifty vessels, twenty-five aircraft and 9,000 personnel from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

BALTOPS 24 was also part of the US Department of Defense exercise series, Large Scale Global Exercise (LSGE). LSGE is an umbrella term that incorporates several exercises and military activities, which enable the US Joint Force to train with Allies and partners and improve shared understanding, trust and interoperability on security challenges across the globe.

While the exercise was led by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet, it was command-and-controlled by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, headquartered in Oeiras, Portugal.

US Marines show the capabilities of the AV-8B Harrier assigned to VMM-365 (REIN) to Swedish Air Force pilots while forward deployed at Ronneby Airport, Sweden, BALTOPS 24 (USMC photo by Cpl. Elton Taylor)
A Spanish Navy AV-8 Harrier prepares to launch from the flight deck of the USS Wasp, BALTOPS 24 (US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Darren M. Moore)

Cover photo: USMC AV-8B Harrier approaching the Ronneby air base, BALTOPS 24 (US Naval Forces Europe-Africa/US Sixth Fleet courtesy photo)
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