First, let’s synchronize terms and frames of reference. 

To dispel a common misperception in the open-source media, the ongoing Neptune Strike 2024 scheduled to conclude this May 10, is a series of real-world activities meant to demonstrate NATO’s ability to rapidly integrate Maritime Strike capabilities and respond to crisis in order to assure alliance populations and deter Russian Aggression. Afonso Ferreira Marques Morango, Public Affairs Officer at Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO Command Group, emphasized “Neptune Strike is not an exercise,” and explained, in part, “It consists of activities that are deliberately planned/dynamically executed that begun as a direct result of the continuation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022.”

Neptune Strike 2024 is a huge NATO activity with 23 Allies and the following participating NATO commands: SHAPE; AIRCOM; MARCOM; LANDCOM; SOFCOM; SFN; JFC-Brunssum; JFC-Naples; JFC-Norfolk and NRDC-ITA. There were no non-governmental organizations involved in this activity.  

In terms of individual Neptune Strike 2024 activities falling in the live, virtual and constructive training domains, Morango noted all Neptune Strike 24-1 activities occur live. “Only munitions release is simulated. Live ordnance is used when policy and regulatory considerations allow,” but significantly added, “Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, the Joint Forces Commands, and STRIKFORNATO all agree that reassurance and deterrence activities must expand beyond the traditional land, sea, air domains in order to provide relevant effects on potential adversaries.  Future events in the cyber and space domains are actively being considered.”

Activity Firsts

At a time when national governments and other stakeholders are increasingly interested in returns on investment for their defense dollars and enhancing their services’ warfighting capabilities, there were some notable “firsts” to report in Neptune Strike 2024:  

·         First NATO command of the FS Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier;

·         First participation of the TCG Anadolu in any NATO event; 

·         First participation of Sweden in a Neptune Strike iteration as an ally;

·         First simultaneous support of three Joint Operational Areas in a Neptune Strike;

·         First simultaneous amphibious assaults in a Neptune Strike;

·         First simultaneous operation of four carrier strike groups in the Mediterranean in a Neptune Strike;

·         First Special Operations High Altitude High Opening jump in a Neptune Strike; and 

·         First integration of STRIKFORNATO command and control element onto ESP Juan Carlos I.

The STRIKFORNATO spokesperson concluded, “Neptune Strike has served to normalize the rapid integration of the most powerful maritime strike assets in the world, allied aircraft carriers, into the NATO military structure. After seven full iterations and three ‘snap’ Transfers of Authority in as many years, every allied nation with a Maritime Strike capacity has participated in Neptune Strike.”