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Week 29 – Northern Europe Operational Update

Brunssum, the Netherlands - The predominantly bi-lateral US-Polish exercise ‘US-Defender-Europe 20’ has been affected by the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the protective measures that had to be put in place. From the originally planned 37.000 in the end only some 6.000 troops were able to participate in the exercise, and most of the planned activities had to be cancelled. The one Defender 20 linked exercise conducted in the first phase was ‘Allied Spirit’, which took place at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, from 05-19 June with some 6.000 US and Polish troops. As phase two of the training cycle, a US-based combined arms battalion started this week conducting an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to NATO partner Poland as part of the final phase of training linked to Defender 20. From 14 July till 22 August, the armoured unit will deploy to Europe to achieve three main exercise objectives: First, a strategic deployment designed to test the US Army’s ability to rapidly alert and deploy to NATO partners in Europe and around the globe. Second, to rehearse the movement, drawing and fielding of equipment from Army Prepositioned Stocks (APS). Third, to execute a company-level combined live-fire exercise. The equipment, to include approximately 55 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, was originally moved from APS sites in Germany and Belgium to Bergen-Hohne Training Area, Germany, in February as part of the original Defender 20 posture. The material was meanwhile deployed via commercial and military road transport to Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, for the second phase of the modified exercise. Some 550 US soldiers stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, will participate in the endeavour. All appropriate COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures had been taken prior to the deployment of the troops, and will further adhered to during the exercise, to ensure the health and protection of participating armed forces and the local population. ‘US-Defender-Europe 20’ was designed as a deployment exercise to build strategic readiness in support of the US National Defense Strategy and NATO deterrence objectives for the Alliance’s eastern flank. It proves the commitment of the US to stand side-by-side with her NATO Allies to ensure their independence, sovereignty, and security.

American Abrams Main Battle Tanks on Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise in Poland during ‘US-Defender-Europe 20’
Photo courtesy of USAEUR

This week, a detachment of German Air Force Eurofighters has arrived in Lithuania with some 30 staff to undertake combined Quick Reaction Alert training alongside the Royal Air Force (RAF) ‘Typhoon’ fighter jets already deployed to Šiauliai Air Base in the frame of NATO’s Baltic air-policing mission. This opportunity has been arranged to enhance the current twinning programme called ‘Plug & Fight’ that has been running between the two Air Forces under the Eurofighter Interoperability Enhancement programme. Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, the Officer Commanding RAF 135 Expeditionary Air Wing deployed to Šiauliai Air Base said: “We are really pleased to welcome our German Air Force friends here to Lithuania; to continue this cooperation is a great opportunity for learning in an operational environment.” The ‘Plug & Fight’ concept as a force package is the smallest contingent of personnel and aircraft, with the aim of common flight operations which can very quickly dock into an existing operations laydown of a partner nation. This concept will provide an enhanced multinational capacity to act together with European partners on current training and eventually, operations.

On 15 July, the third remotely piloted aircraft of NATO’s Ground Surveillance Programme arrived at its new homebase in Sigonella, Italy. The landing marks yet another step for NATO on its way to acquiring a total of five RQ-4D remotely piloted aircraft, referred to as “Phoenix”, all to be based at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Main Operating Base in Sigonella on Sicily, Italy. “The Ferry Flight of aircraft NATO-03 from California to Sicily is a significant milestone in the Alliance Ground Surveillance procurement programme”, said Brigadier General Volker Samanns, the General Manager of the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency. The crossing of the Atlantic from California to Italy was entirely controlled by pilots at the Base in Sigonella. The “Phoenix” took off on Tuesday, 14 July, from Edwards Air Force Base in California in the United States and landed at Sigonella around 22 hours later. Once all five aircraft have arrived in Sigonella by the end of 2020, NATO’s collectively owned and operated Alliance Ground Surveillance system will provide a unique state-of-the-art capability procured by 15 Allies and shared with all 30 members of the Alliance. The entire Alliance Ground Surveillance system is custom-made and uniquely adapted to NATO requirements and specifically designed to meet the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance needs identified by the North Atlantic Council and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Story by Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Public Affairs Office

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