NATO Allies hold a series of simultaneous drills to assesses the coordinated team war-fighting capabilities in the Baltic and Black Sea operational theater.
Taking off from Norway, two US Air Force B-1 bombers trained with fighter aircraft from Poland, Italy and Germany over the Baltic Sea and flew over the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In a separate event, two French Rafale fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and two Spanish F-18 aircraft on NATO duty in Romania took part in drills involving NATO warships in the Black Sea.
“The Baltic and Black Sea regions are of strategic importance to the Alliance”, said NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu, “Training events like these demonstrate that we fulfil our core mission: to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace”, she said.
The Black Sea maneuvers saw the French and Spanish fighter jets prod the air defences of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group Two, which is currently in the region. The fleet of NATO minehunters, supported by three Romanian F-16 fighters, faced simulated attacks from the French and Spanish jets, including with anti-ship missiles. A NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft flying out of Konya in Turkey and an Italian KC-767 refueling aircraft supported the drill.
Exercises are important tools through which the Alliance tests and validates its concepts, procedures, systems and tactics. More broadly, they enable militaries and civilian organisations deployed in theatres of operation to test capabilities and practise working together efficiently in a demanding crisis situation.
NATO exercise scenarios
During an exercise, forces are asked to respond to a fictitious scenario that resembles what might occur in real life. Exercises cover the full range of military operations, from combat to humanitarian relief and from stabilisation to reconstruction. They can last from a day to several weeks and can vary in scope from a few officers working on an isolated problem, to full-scale combat scenarios involving aircraft, navy ships, artillery pieces, armoured vehicles and thousands of troops.
Alliance exercises are supported by NATO countries and, as appropriate, by partner countries, which provide national commitments in the form of troops, equipment or other types of support. The participating countries are normally responsible for funding any form of national contribution.
Each exercise has pre-specified training objectives which drive the selection of activities. Objectives may be to build skills and knowledge, practise coordination mechanisms, or validate procedures.
At the conclusion of an exercise, commanders and, in many cases, troops collectively review their performance. This process allows them to identify areas that work well (“best practices”) and areas that can be improved (“lessons learned”). In this way, exercises facilitate continuous improvement of interoperability, efficiency and performance.