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A landing craft air-cushion transports U.S.and Portuguese marines from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington  to Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach in Portugal, to participate in a combined amphibious assault exercise as part of Trident Juncture 2015, Oct. 20, 2015. The Arlington, part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

A landing craft air-cushion transports U.S.and Portuguese marines from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington to Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach in Portugal, to participate in a combined amphibious assault exercise as part of Trident Juncture 2015, Oct. 20, 2015. The Arlington, part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (Austin Long/U.S. Marine Corps)

A landing craft air-cushion transports U.S.and Portuguese marines from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington  to Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach in Portugal, to participate in a combined amphibious assault exercise as part of Trident Juncture 2015, Oct. 20, 2015. The Arlington, part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.

A landing craft air-cushion transports U.S.and Portuguese marines from the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington to Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa beach in Portugal, to participate in a combined amphibious assault exercise as part of Trident Juncture 2015, Oct. 20, 2015. The Arlington, part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. (Austin Long/U.S. Marine Corps)

An Osprey V22 lands on HNLMS Johan de Witt during Exercise Trident Juncture 15.

An Osprey V22 lands on HNLMS Johan de Witt during Exercise Trident Juncture 15. (NATO)

Dutch rigid hull inflatable boats return to the landing platform dock HNLMS Joan de Witt during an amphibious landing demonstration for Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, on Oct. 23, 2015.  The Royal Netherlands Navy is being certified to lead the amphibious forces in the 2016 NATO Response Force.

Dutch rigid hull inflatable boats return to the landing platform dock HNLMS Joan de Witt during an amphibious landing demonstration for Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, on Oct. 23, 2015. The Royal Netherlands Navy is being certified to lead the amphibious forces in the 2016 NATO Response Force. (David Benham/U.S. Navy)

A Boarding Team, from NRP Vasco Da Gama, participating in a boarding exercise with Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Halifax, rides in a Zodiac on Oct. 23, 2015.

A Boarding Team, from NRP Vasco Da Gama, participating in a boarding exercise with Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Halifax, rides in a Zodiac on Oct. 23, 2015. (Department of National Defence, Canada)

Members of Her Majesty?s Canadian Ship Halifax observe the NRP Vasco Da Gama, right, and HMCS Athabaskan, background, as the three vessels conduct Replenishment at Sea approach exercises, during Exercise Trident Juncture on Oct. 25, 2015.

Members of Her Majesty?s Canadian Ship Halifax observe the NRP Vasco Da Gama, right, and HMCS Athabaskan, background, as the three vessels conduct Replenishment at Sea approach exercises, during Exercise Trident Juncture on Oct. 25, 2015. (Department of National Defence, Canada)

While participating in NATO's Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, the combined task group composed of SNMG2 units and three other ships conducts a manoeuvring exercise in formation. Depicted from front to back are Bulgarian frigate Drazki, Italian frigate Zeffiro and German frigate Sachsen on Oct. 24, 2015. The units of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 are participating in multinational exercises.

While participating in NATO's Exercise Trident Juncture 2015, the combined task group composed of SNMG2 units and three other ships conducts a manoeuvring exercise in formation. Depicted from front to back are Bulgarian frigate Drazki, Italian frigate Zeffiro and German frigate Sachsen on Oct. 24, 2015. The units of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 are participating in multinational exercises. (Alyssa Bier/German Navy)

NAPLES, Italy — NATO allies are flexing their muscles at sea halfway through the alliance’s biggest land, air and sea exercise in more than a decade.

Amphibious and naval operations have been the early focus of Trident Juncture 15, a 19-day exercise involving 36,000 participants at sites across Spain, Portugal, Italy and in nearby waters.

U.S. and Portuguese marines launched from the American amphibious ship USS Arlington to storm a beach in Pinheiro da Cruz, Portugal, on Oct. 20. Dutch and British forces also practiced amphibious landings at Sierra del Retin, Spain, and Sardinia in the exercises’s opening days.

Canadian, Portuguese and Danish ships coordinated off Portugal’s southern coast, while Portuguese F-16 and Finnish F/A-18 fighter jets provided air defense for maritime maneuvers.

Next week, U.S. Marines will land and launch their MV-22 Ospreys from the Spanish ship Juan Carlos I, the latest test of the Corps’ plan to operate Ospreys off foreign vessels because of a lack of American amphibious warships in the theater.

Trident Juncture is designed to test NATO forces’ speed and ability to adapt to a wide-spectrum of conflict. Each event involves the fictitious country of Sorotan, which faces invasion from a hostile neighbor.

The exercise will certify the NATO Response Force and its quick-reaction Spearhead task force for the coming year.

Planning for Trident Juncture began two years ago, the aim being to mark NATO’s transition from its counterinsurgency-focused campaign in Afghanistan to a broader range of operations.

Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, the expansion of Islamic militant groups in North Africa and the Levant and NATO responses to both have since changed those plans, officials said. The alliance recently decided to increase the size of the response force and created the Spearhead force, designed to deploy to a crisis with 48 hours.

More than 30 nations are participating in Trident Juncture, contributing over 70 ships, submarines and maritime patrol aircraft to the exercise, in addition to air force and army components. More than 3,000 marines from multiple countries also are participating.

beardsley.steven@stripes.com Twitter: @sjbeardsley


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