STRIKFORNATO is the Alliance’s primary battle staff for integrating US maritime forces into NATO operations and replaced the old STRIKFORSOUTH (est. 1952) in 2004. The current command platform is the US Navy Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Utilizing HMS Bulwark (L15) as an alternative command platform would ensure operational flexibility for NATO’s maritime operations.
NATO staff take tour of HMS Bulwark
The Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces at NATO (STRIKFORNATO), Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe USN, has paid a visit to the Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark. VAdm Pandolfe took the opportunity to visit the ship while she was alongside in Lisbon as part of a multi-national exercised called Cougar 13.
The aim of the visit was to evaluate the use of HMS Bulwark as a future Alternative Command Platform (ACP) to the current platform of choice – the USS Mount Whitney.
STRIKFORNATO is NATO’s premier Maritime Battlestaff and the Alliance’s primary link for integrating US Maritime Forces into NATO operations.
Managed by a Memorandum of Understanding comprising 11 nations, STRIKFORNATO is a rapidly deployable, maritime headquarters that provides command and control across the full spectrum of security tasking.
As part of on going contingency planning, the staff of STRIKFORNATO are visiting as many potential ACPs as they can when the opportunity arises.
HMS Bulwark is deployed for four months on Cougar 13 as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) along with three other warships – HMS Illustrious, HMS Westminster and HMS Montrose.
Captain Andrew Burns Royal Navy, Commanding Officer HMS Bulwark said:
“One of the main roles of the Fleet Flagship is command and control due to HMS Bulwark’s advanced communications suite and capacity to accommodate large numbers of personnel.
“It is therefore a privilege and delight to show the STRIKFORNATO team our facilities because it helps both of us prepare for potential contingent operations where we could be working together.”
STRIKFORNATO and the RFTG were involved in NATO Operation Unified Protector in 2011, protecting Libyan civilians from attack, and threat of attack from pro-Colonel Gadaffi supporters.
The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa.
It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world.