In Crete, Europe learns to fight without America

“Can't the Americans keep an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean? No problem: four other Europeans step up. And what happens in the sea happens in heaven and on earth: m New exercise NATO's Neptune Strike 24-1 appears to be a dress rehearsal for a future in which the Old Continent's defense will have to rely more on its own forces than on US support.” writes Gianluca Di Feo of the Italian La Repubblica in his reply from Crete.

The Italian journalist speaks of a “revolution” caused not so much by Donald Trump's statements about abandoning the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but by the realization that threats have theoretically ceased.

“These are incredible times for someone like me who has chosen a military career. Everything is changing at an extraordinary speed,” commented a senior officer in the task force of the Spanish strike group Tedalo in a conversation with Di Feo. Off Crete, the Spanish aircraft carrier “Juan Carlos” is the commanding headquarters for NATO exercise Neptune Strike 24-1 (with the participation of warships from 11 countries from April 26 to May 10) in the Aegean. and fighter jets from various members of the alliance).

“These large-scale exercises dissolve any ancient or recent rivalry between the national armies. We see Spanish and Turkish fleets landing together on the same ground where their ancestors faced off at the Battle of Nafpaktos (1571) nearly five centuries earlier,” De Feo writes.

However, “Athens and Ankara have put tensions aside and, with the mediation of Madrid's naval authorities, have coordinated exercises on the coast of Crete and the Dodecanese where there were self-propelled anti-aircraft guns until two years ago. -aircraft guns, so that Erdogan's planes are at a distance.”

This is the first time that the Turks have participated so strongly in NATO exercises of the Neptune Strike series. In fact, they sent their flagship “Anatolu” helicopter carrier, which after receiving the US number for the F-35, Ankara is modifying to make it possible to launch large drones, “a real fighter designed by industry. The Bayraktar brothers (one is Erdoğan's son-in-law) who became famous at the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine. ” reports De Feo.

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Ankara maintains direct command of its group (consisting of five units), however, it works closely with other coalition forces participating in the exercise. On Monday the Turks appeared in Otranto in the Ionian, but did not repeat the siege of 1480: together with a division of the French fleet, they took control of the access to the Adriatic, with teams of divers operating off the coast of Albania, searching for explosive devices.

“One of the main points of this exercise is the precise monitoring of important sea lanes and straits. We tend to do it together, jointly providing ships,” explained Vice Admiral Gonzalo Nijar Rodríguez, commander of the Spanish task force Tedalo.

Over the next ten days, combat simulations will be conducted across the Mediterranean, while NATO aircraft will take to the skies over the Black Sea and the Baltic, where Swedish forces will make their debut following the country's entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Regarding the military exercises, the Italian ambassador to Crete notes that last Monday two submarines – one French and one Greek – “torpedoed” an oil tanker with two warships.

A total of 24 warships, 48 ​​aircraft and 4,600 soldiers will participate in the exercise. In this context of new vigilance and awareness, Paris made an unprecedented gesture of placing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle under NATO command.

It is surrounded by seven units, destroyers and warships, only one of which belongs to the US Navy. Also, despite the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower's last-minute return to the Mediterranean, the coalition relied on its three European aircraft carriers – France, Spain and Italy – and a helicopter carrier, making plans to conduct the exercise without it. Turkey.

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During his stay on the Spanish aircraft carrier “Juan Carlos”, the Italian ambassador to Crete had the opportunity to see five vertical takeoff Harrier fighter planes (called “Matador” by the Spanish) take off one after the other. Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, was tasked with providing protection for the men of the Tercio de Armada, an amphibious assault squadron of the Spanish Armed Forces, during the landing of the Naval Battle of Nafbactos, during which he was wounded.

In the flagship of the Spanish fleet and the Spanish landing ship “Galicia”, more than five hundred marines were loaded directly into the landing craft along with armored vehicles and munitions. Their descent was swift, as Gianluca De Feo informs us, reminding us that the Russians tried to do something similar in Odessa, but were forced to abandon the effort due to Ukrainian resistance.

“The most important lesson from Ukraine is that drones are everywhere on the battlefield. Today we cannot contemplate conducting an amphibious operation without first eliminating the threat of enemy drones.” Spanish Vice Admiral Gonzalo Villar Rodriguez explained.

But the Spanish navy, like other NATO countries, only has small anti-aircraft missiles to deal with drones: they don't have electronic engagement devices or other advanced weapon systems used to intercept drones. “We are equipping ourselves, but we still have the Harrier, which guarantees air superiority against drones as well. […] We strongly believe that this is the best tool to intercept them. It was also seen in the Red Sea, where a US Navy Harrier pilot destroyed seven drones in a matter of days.” said the Spanish vice-admiral.

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