NATO Ships Practice War Maneuvers
BOSTON (AP) _ Joining forces for NATO’s largest-ever peacetime exercise, a fleet of 200 warships and fighter planes from 10 countries rendezvoused off the East Coast today to practice maneuvers as if the world were at the brink of war.
The fleet, including submarines, the aircraft carrier USS America and the battleship USS Iowa, is speeding to Iceland and then England, pretending that it must rush supplies to Europe through enemy attacks.
The operation, dubbed ″Ocean Safari 85,″ is scheduled to take four weeks.
″NATO’s mission is a show of force,″ said U.S. Navy Public Information Officer Margaret Ronzio. ″NATO wants to prove it can protect the waterways and supply routes in times of conflict.″
Although the exercise is for practice, the Balzan, one of the Soviet Union’s largest and most sophisticated spy ships, has been shadowing the group, officials said.
″We expect Soviet observation, as we would observe them,″ said Ms. Ronzio.
The Soviets’ 300-man, 4,000-ton armed surveillance ship began trailing the first ships of the convoy as they left Norfolk, Va., earlier this week, and continued to follow them Thursday, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. C.R. Quigley, an Atlantic fleet spokesman.
Navy officials would not comment when asked if the exercise would include simulated nuclear attacks or defenses.
″Ocean Safari 85″ began Thursday as five North Atlantic Treaty Organization warships - frigates of Great Britain, Canada, Holland, West Germany and the United States - raced from Boston Harbor to guide a small convoy of chartered cargo ships to the rendezvous 100 miles offshore with the rest of the fleet.
The ships, some carrying helicopters, swiveled their missle launchers and flashed high-intensity search lights as they paraded, single file, out of the harbor. Hundreds of people on shore waved and honked car horns.
″This is the largest and most ambitious excercise we’ve done to date,″ added U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Russ Greer. ″We try to make these as realistic as possible. It helps us evaluate our plans.
″The primary purpose is to supply Europe in the time of war,″ he said. ″That is the key mission. We have to know how to do that.″
Ships, planes and submarines from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, West Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Great Britain and the United States are taking part in the excercise. France will also participate in a limited role, Greer said.
For the past week, Navy and Coast Guard ships and 1,000 officers have been clearing the Boston shipping channel of ″mines″ and quietly fighting each other at night as ″terrorists″ try to infiltrate military installations around the harbor.
Seven dark-colored patrol boats maneuvered in the Atlantic off Gloucester, waiting for night to attempt sorties into Boston Harbor, engaging in simulated attacks on defending forces and the laying of mines.
One hundred mock aggressors camped in tents for the week ″because we want to provide a sense of realism for the participants,″ said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Newhart, the Navy’s New England spokesman.
Once out to sea, targets will be set up and the vessels will fire ″whatever it takes to destroy them,″ Greer said.