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NATO’s largest amphibious and maritime exercise, Destined Glory, kicks off Thursday near Sardinia and will run through Oct. 16.

“[Destined Glory] enables NATO and the eight countries … with Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO to collectively train their personnel in a live-fire exercise,” said exercise spokesman Royal Navy Lt. Craig Moran.

About 9,500 personnel on some 50 ships and 46 aircraft from 11 countries are taking part in the exercise at two locations along the southern Sardinian coast.

“Notable this year is that there are additional countries taking part other than the eight that are collectively part of STRIKFORNATO,” he said.

The eight are Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. The other participating countries are Belgium, France and Canada.

Nearly 200 U.S. personnel will be participating in Destined Glory, including the U.S. Navy’s Lance Cpl. Roy M. Wheat, a container and roll-on/roll-off ship, and P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft from Patrol Squadron 16.

This year’s exercise is also the first major test of NATO’s multinational quick response force, which was created last October.

The British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible also is taking part, along with landing forces from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and France.

Normally held annually, the last Destined Glory took place off both Sardinia and Greece in 2002.

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