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Sep 25 2020

Week 39 – Northern Europe Operational Update

Brunssum, the Netherlands - Allied and Partner fighter and support aircraft took to the skies in the morning of September 21st to start their training flights in the Baltic region.

Italian Eurofighters took off from Šiauliai, Lithuania, and were joined by Portuguese and Polish F-16s flying in from Poland to conduct aerial combat drills in a specially segregated training area. Meanwhile an Estonian M-28 transport plane took off from Ämari, Estonia, to simulate a loss of communications in Finnish airspace, where it was intercepted by Finnish F-18s, escorted and handed over to German Eurofighters – also from Ämari. The M-28 then continued to simulate a crash landing and triggered the national rescue and response. A group of Estonian media were on-board the M-28 and witnessed the simulated procedures.

A Royal Netherlands Air Force KDC-10 tanker aircraft conducted air-to-air refuelling with Polish F-16 fighters; Finnish and Swedish fighters were involved in air-to-air manoeuvres and German Eurofighters flew Close Air Support missions for Estonian Joint Tactical Air Controllers.

These complex training scenarios provide important practice for all Allies and regional Partners. The simulated situations reflect incidents that may happen any time and it is important for all participants to be coordinated as to how they apply tactics, techniques and procedures across national borders.

“Regular training and cooperation with our regional Allies and Partners is essential to ensure we have an effective force in place to safeguard the Baltic Region,” said Allied Air Command Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Andrew Hansen. “I am confident that this will be another successful hands-on training event here in the Baltic States,”

Also this past week NATO’s Allied Land Command held its 17th biannual meeting of Alliance Land Forces commanders from the Headquarters of Multinational Corps Northeast (MNCNE) in Szczecin, Poland September 21-23. During a planned media engagement to officially kick off the event, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Roger L. Cloutier Jr., LANDCOM’s Commander, explained the joint decision he made alongside his counterpart, MNCNE’s Commander, Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski, to transform the event from a physical conference to a mostly virtual one.

“We had nearly 30 commanders from across NATO on both sides of the Atlantic scheduled to be here this week,” said Lieutenant General Cloutier. “As you know, the world has been dealing with the challenge of COVID-19, and NATO is not immune to this challenge. So, exercising caution, we changed our conference into a virtual event.”

LC3 is a biannual event that brings commanders from the NATO Force and Command Structures together to develop a shared visualisation of the role of Land Forces and to discuss emergent challenges. Among the topics discussed during the conference were Land Domain Training and Exercises, Deterrence in the Land Domain, U.S. planned integration with NATO and Air Domain Integration with Land Operations.

Despite the virtual nature of this event, Lieutenant General Wojciechowski maintained high hopes for what would be achieved as an enduring result of the Fall 2020 iteration. “We will have the opportunity to discuss all the most important subjects covering our Corps’ functioning and – in a broader aspect – the functioning of NATO. I am very happy to see the commanders in Poland – be it in person or online,” he said. “It is a great enterprise and a clear indication our actions are real and of major significance”.

Joint Force Command Brunssum Commander, General Jörg Vollmer, who also attended the conference in person, said the venue provides NATO Commanders the chance to further discuss and develop concepts for deterrence and defence of the Alliance. He also highlighted MNCNE’s critical role for NATO as a regionally aligned, Land Domain headquarters. “This headquarters here in Szczecin plays, for all of us in NATO and in JFC Brunssum, an important role; because, this is the regional headquarters that has the responsibility for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and for Poland,” said General Vollmer.

General Vollmer emphasized NATO’s capability to protect its own people from the COVID-19 pandemic, yet still conduct crucial security operations, including the eFP mission, Baltic Air Policing, and Maritime operations. He said the strength of the Alliance comes from its member nations united in defence of the North Atlantic Area.

Lieutenant General Cloutier stressed his high expectations for the virtual event as he prepared to address NATO commanders from both sides of the Atlantic in the closed-door meetings. “Ultimately, it’s about NATO land forces readiness for deterrence and defence,” he said.

Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office

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