25 October 2018

"Trident Juncture 2018" - the largest NATO post-Cold War exercise -

Ştefan Oprea

Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE18), organized and headed by NATO, is the biggest demonstration of strength in the last thirty years. The main host of the exercise will be Norway. The exercise is defensive and NATO has invited all members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Russia to send observers.

Image source: Mediafax

Changing the global security environment has prompted NATO, among other measures, to intensify its exercise program, important tools for the Alliance to achieve interoperability, as well as testing and validating its concepts, procedures and tactics.

After 2014, collective defence has become a predominant feature of NATO, and the preparation and testing of the capacity to plan and carry out a major operation have become priorities of the Alliance. NATO's rapid response capability, allied support, or rapid military crisis response are major objectives to strengthen Alliance's position and make it credible and relevant.

Moreover, the deployment of allied forces in and across Europe and their support to maintain NATO's deterrence and defence position is the key condition for the Alliance's core mission.

The amplification of the number and complexity of the exercises made the latter fit into the foreseen operational feature.

"Trident Junction 2018" exercise (TRJE18) is part of the High Visibility Exercise (HVE) category and will have two distinct stages. A live field exercise (Live Exercise - LIVEX) between 25 October and 7 November 2018 in Norway, the Baltic Sea and North Atlantic (Figure 1) and a Command Post Exercise (CPX), which will take place in Stavanger, Norway, at the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) Centre, from 14 to 23 November 2018.

The exercise will have a scenario based on Article 5 (collective defence) of the North Atlantic Treaty and will be led by the Allied Joint Force Command (Naples), will certify the NATO Response Force 2019 and test the capability of disarmament and action of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF).

The exercise will also include operations and activities to check the Alliance's capacity to act in partnership with Finland and Sweden.

With a participation of about 50,000 soldiers, 150 combat aircraft, 65 combat ships and over 10,000 vehicles from 31 NATO and partner countries, the exercise will represent the largest deployment of forces and means of fighting since the collapse of the Union Soviet Union,1991. It is worth noting that at the last moment, the United States decided to supplement its forces by participating USS carrier Harry S. Truman, accompanied by its entire strike group.

Unlike the Cold War period when NATO forces were statically disposed, on the border between West and East Germany, and where they knew their areas of responsibility, where to go, what missions they had to accomplish, and a pre-positioned logistics, the present reality is a great challenge.

Today, after Russia annexed Crimean region of Ukraine, when Western Allies established a military position advanced on the eastern flank of NATO, combined with a rapid strengthening capability, if necessary, testing the mobility of forces between the Alliance countries (customs regulations, the border, etc.) and the expeditionary nature of their action, becomes a pressing requirement.

Norway is among the Member States to have offered to host this exercise, offering the opportunity to train realistically in land, air and naval space, and the challenging weather, will be a challenge, forcing them to operate under extreme conditions. According to data provided by the Norwegian Armed Forces, 50 camps will be set up for the exercise and the largest will accommodate 5,500 people. In the exercise area, 35,000 beds will be established, 1.8 million meals will be served before and during the exercise, and 4.6 million bottles of water will be delivered during the exercise.

"Trident Junction 2018" is also an excellent platform to cooperate with close partners such as Finland and Sweden as part of efforts to strengthen partnership with Norway, the US and NATO.

The exercise will be led by Joint Forces Command of Naples, whose commander is Admiral James G. Foggo - US Navy, at the same time commander of the US Navy in Europe and Africa.

He will conduct the exercise on board USS Mount Whitney (the most sophisticated US command and control ship, and the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet), and will be assist by his deputy Lieutenant General Christian Juneau (Canada Army) for the co-ordination of land forces, and from the host country, Lieutenant General Rune Jakobsen, Commander of the Norwegian Joint Headquarters in Bodø, Norway.

The exercise is designed to test, in all areas, the interoperability of national forces and the capacity of the Alliance to conduct large-scale military operations under difficult conditions, anywhere, to counteract any kind of aggression.

"Trident Junction 2018" will provide the platform for testing, refining and further developing existing or new capabilities that have not yet been tested by coordinating and integrating the experiments of entities belonging to each NATO nation. More than 20 experimental activities will be coordinated for the purpose of validation. Some of the most important will be presented below.

Deployable Air Activation Modules Coordination Cell

The project, led by Italy, aims to develop NATO's ability to coordinate the deployment of an air base in order to support the logistical efforts of a host nation for the conduct of air operations.

Opportunity to open the theatre of operations

The experiment consists in the final validation of the concept of "Theatre Opening Capability Airport of Debarkation". It will provide the handling of cargo and passengers for all strategic air transport as well as tactical aerial connection within the theatre of operations in support of the NATO mission. The airport will provide the necessary elements for the reception and continuous movement of forces for a period of 90 days.

Land Command and Control System

The current version of the NATO command and control system is expected to reach its end of life in 2021. In order to avoid a capability gap and allow the creation of a new land command and control system, observations will be made during the exercise to capture lessons to refine the high-level requirements for the future development of this capability.

Information Environment Assessment

The objective of the experiment is to validate an initial Information Environment Assessment capability that provides better knowledge on the Information environment and to support the military actions in the hybrid and digital war.

NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Receive and Disseminate ISR Data

The purpose of the experiment is to test the ability of NATO members to share ISR data in a joint environment and support the TRJE18 exercise by providing the Air Component Command Targeting Cell with exploited imagery products. Achieving full operational capability by the AGS system will entail a fundamental change in how NATO will disseminate ISR data.

Unmanned Platforms for Force and Base Protection

This is an experiment to validate the concept of using data transmitted by sensors (ground sensors, shot detection sensors, camera-based sensors, etc.) to a unified user interface on the command and control system. The sensor package includes unmanned weapon systems that will be committed to counteracting enemy threats.

Expeditionary Logistics Experiment. In this area, the Marine Corps

Operating Concept, Marine Corps Force 2025, and Hybrid Logistics will be experimented, which will involve the integration, synchronization and exploitation of expeditionary logistics technologies in Joint Task Force operations. The purpose of this experiment is to demonstrate the capability of insuring and delivering equipment to isolated troops in dangerous areas.

The Expeditionary Logistics experiment

In this area, the Marine Corps Operating Concept, Marine Corps Force 2025, and Hybrid Logistics will be experimented, which will involve the integration, synchronization and exploitation of expeditionary logistics technologies into Joint Task Force operations. The purpose of this experiment is to demonstrate the capability of insuring and delivering equipment to isolated troops in dangerous areas.

In-Field Additive Manufacturing

The purpose of this experiment is to validate and demonstrate a concept where container-based units, in concert with unmanned aircraft for transport of parts, serve ground forces with “just in time” delivery of spare parts and modifications of existing parts or systems to better serve mission solving, and in-field product development.

Medical Civil-Military Interface

The objective of this experiment is to explore the interaction between civil and military components, to identify the civil-military medical interface requirements and the flow of information needed to develop a common understanding and improve the response to the crisis. At the same time, the experiment involves testing the civilian medical facilities belonging to the host nation on the collaboration with NATO medical capabilities.

The deployment area, size and complexity of the “Trident Junction 2018” exercise, NATO's largest demonstration of strength over the last 30 years, will provide all participants with a realistic environment for the implementation of a high-intensity combat scenario, freedom of manoeuvre in all dimensions, preparing NATO for future challenges.