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Jun 26 2020

Week 26 Northern Europe Operational Update

This week, NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Poland conducted Exercise ‘Bull Run 12’ in northeastern Poland, near the so-called Suwalki-gap, a 100 km long land corridor marking the border between Poland and Lithuania. It connects the NATO-member Baltic States to Poland and the rest of NATO. ‘Bull Run 12’ is a multinational rapid response exercise that tests interoperability between the US-led eFP Battlegroup Poland and the Polish 15th Mechanized Infantry Brigade, and the ability to effectively move NATO units over long distances and conduct defence operations. It should also ensure the Battlegroup is fully ready and capable to respond to any potential adversaries. Parts of the exercise were attended by the Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, according to whom the manoeuvres are more than a usual meeting on the firing range. "It will not only be a joint exercise of Polish, American, British, Romanian and Croatian units, but also a demonstration to the local population that the military is not only present on their training grounds, that they are the guardians of our homeland and active, trained and well-oiled troops," said the Polish Defence Minister. The multinational NATO eFP Battlegroup Poland, led by the US, is based in Bemowo Piskie, near Orzysz in the north-east of the country, and is supported by contingents from Croatia, Romania and the UK. 

In Lithuania, the German-led eFP Battlegroup (BG) has concluded Exercise ‘Howling Wolf II’ this week, practicing the cooperation between German armoured infantry and engineers. This part of the exercise concentrated on the crossing of waters, a natural obstacle for heavy military equipment like main battle tanks or infantry fighting vehicles. The exercise scenario stipulated that a potential enemy had blown up the only bridge over a river, thus impeding the German ‘Panzergrenadier’-company of the eFP BG Lithuania to reach its operational objective. So the engineers had to employ their armoured vehicle-launched bridge ‘Biber’ to allow the infantry fighting vehicles 'Marder' to cross the river. ‘Howling Wolf’ has again demonstrated how practicing together strengthens the mutual understanding between the different military branches in a complex exercise scenario. Apart from Germany as the lead nation, eFP Battlegroup Lithuania is composed of military contingents from the Netherlands, Norway, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Belgium, Luxembourg, and a civilian from Iceland. 

In the maritime domain, one of the permanent NATO squadrons, the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2), trained with two Tunisian Navy vessels in the Western Mediterranean Sea on 22 June. The exercise was conducted in the waters north of Bizerte, Tunisia, with the NATO and Tunisian ships performing a communication drill, followed by a series of manoeuvers and concluded by the traditional ‘sailpast’ and a salute between the participating vessels. From the Tunisian Navy, the Offshore Patrol Vessel ‘Syphax’ and the Fast Patrol Boat ‘Hamilcar’ took part in the exercise. The SNMG2, under Italian command since December last year, was represented by the Italian Frigate ‘Fasan’ and the Turkish Frigate ‘Salihreis’. “This training does not only have value in its execution, which demonstrated the outstanding capability and immediate integration of the Tunisian Navy with NATO forces, but has also opened a new chapter of further cooperation at sea between Tunisia, NATO and all Allied nations,” said Italian Rear Admiral Paolo Fantoni, Commander of SNMG2. Tunisia has a long-lasting cooperation with NATO, the partnership falls under NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue. The objectives are, for both sides, to enhance interoperability, improving maritime security and deterring potential terrorist threats at sea. Already at the end of last week, SNMG2 performed two days of exercises in the Aegean Sea with ships from the Hellenic and Turkish navies. SNMG2 is one of four standing task groups that comprise the maritime component of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which is part of the NATO Response Force (NRF). To respond to contingency situations additional forces can be added to these groups, with the NATO command staff onboard and the ships of the group as the nucleus, capable of providing timely support to NATO operations. 

The first ships that will participate in NATO’s 2020 ‘Dynamic Mongoose’ exercises have arrived in Iceland this week. In addition to Iceland, six NATO member states will be participating in the exercises: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Norway, and Germany. They are contributing five submarines, five warships, and five submarine search aircraft to the exercise. The purpose of the ‘Dynamic Mongoose’ operation is to exercise submarine warfare and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) both for submarines, ASW surface units and maritime patrol aircraft in order to conduct sea control or sea denial related naval tasks in preparation for future collective defence and crisis response operations. NATO has held similar exercises annually in Norwegian territorial waters since 2012, with the exception of 2017, when they were held off Iceland. It has now been decided that the exercises will be held alternately in Icelandic and Norwegian waters. Iceland will provide facilities in the security area of Keflavík Airport and the Icelandic Coast Guard will participate in the exercises. The maneuvers will take place between 29 June and 10 July.

Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office

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