Europe’s premier integrated air and missile defense drill Formidable Shield concluded October 17 with ally ships engaging a supersonic target off the coast of Scotland.
The US Navy-led exercise began September 24 and saw the participation of warships from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and US.
During the closing collective self-defense scenario, Dutch frigate HNLMS Tromp (F803) fired a Standard Missile (SM) 2 and an Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) against the supersonic target.
U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from 31st Fighter Wing, Aviano Air Base, Italy, were designated as “opposition forces” and fired the supersonic target during this exercise scenario.
The two missiles fired against the supersonic target Oct. 17 occurred during the third live-fire event of FS17. During FS17, four nations conducted a total of 11 successful missile launches.
During the first live-fire event Oct. 7, the Canadian frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH 336) fired three Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) fired two SM-2s at four incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.
The second live-fire event took place on Oct. 15, with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) firing one SM-3 Block IB guided missile against a medium-range ballistic missile target. Also on Oct. 15, the Spanish frigate SPS Alvaro de Bazan (F101) fired one ESSM against an incoming anti-ship cruise missile while Tromp fired two ESSMs against a pair of incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.
Notable ‘firsts’ that occurred during FS17 include: the first time NATO’s smart defense concept was demonstrated with ships serving as air defense units protecting naval ballistic missile defense units; the first no-notice launch of anti-ship cruise missiles as part of an IAMD scenario; and the first time a NATO IAMD task group was exercised at sea.
More than 3,500 troops will participate in Silver Arrow 2017 international military drill held in Latvia – Adazi, Ape, Gulbene and Aluksne regions – on October 16- 29, the Latvian Defense Ministry reported.
Countries participating in the drill include Albania, the US, Estonia, Italy, Canada, Latvia, the UK, Poland, Slovenia, Spain and Germany. Also about 200 home guards and 30 reserve troops will participate in the exercise.
The goal of the drill is to improve cooperation of the National Armed Forces with the allies, train the ability of units to plan and conduct defense operations, the ministry said.
Alongside, National Armed Forces mobilization drills and reserve troops exercise will be held.
The ministry reminded that initially Silver Arrow was a national military exercise, but since 2014 it has growing into an international exercise with cooperation of allies and partners.
Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid on Monday met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella who hosted a lunch in honor of the Estonian head of state in Rome, during which the presidents discussed the migration crisis, opportunities of the digital society and the future of the European Union.
“The fact that hundreds of thousands of migrants from Africa arrive in Italy every year — and for many years in a row — is not Italy’s problem. It is a problem of the whole of Europe and so all of us hold the key to solving the problem. As Italian fighters will protect our airspace in Amari next year, we must also understand joint concerns that are to the south of us. An not only understand them, but also contribute to solving them,” the president said after the meeting.
The heads of state at the meeting focused on discussing the opportunities of the digital society and questions concerning cyber security. Kaljulaid said that many modern dangers do not depend on geography.
“Those risks are similar in Rome and Tallinn and this is why cooperation between countries is important, a good example of which is the participation of Italy in the work of our NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn since its launch,” the president said.
Speaking about the future of the European Union, Kaljulaid first and foremost considered it important that the member states remain united in important questions. “This is our — Estonia’s, and in reality the whole of EU’s — strategic interest. Europe is faced with a number of challenges, but no member state can solve a big problem alone better than together,” Kaljulaid said.
The president on Monday evening will open an exhibition at the Italian National Gallery of Modern Art that will feature the works of Estonian painter Konrad Magi. Kaljulaid on Tuesday will visit three schools in Rome and gift them with reproductions of Magi’s painting “Landscape of Italy. Rome.”
Whether Europe sees the creation of a “naval Airbus” will be known by June 2018.
That is the date by which French and Italian shipbuilding giants Naval Group and Fincantieri are to define “a roadmap detailing the principles of the future alliance”.
The announcement of the possible merger was made in Lyon, France, by French president Emmanuel Macron and Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni on September 27.
The two companies have welcomed the announcement in a joint statement.
“Our two groups have already successfully cooperated on the Horizon and FREMM frigates programs and we look forward to achieving together our European ambition while serving our international development on a growing competitive naval defence market and continuing to support the Italian and French navies,” Naval Group CEO Hervé Guillou and Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono declared.
In addition to the possible merger, it was also announced that Fincatieri would be taking a 50% stake in the French STX shipyard in Saint Nazaire.
Details of the deal say that Fincantieri will have a controlling stake after the French state lends the Italian company an additional 1%. The French state, however, reserved the right to take that 1% back should Fincantieri not comply with the deal. In the case France takes back the 1%, Fincantieri will be able to sell its 50% stake, according to reports citing government sources.
Warsaw: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland has published details of Exercise Dragon 17 and the countries that are taking part from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as their allies from Georgia and Ukraine.
“The training and combat readiness drills of Dragon-17 are proceeding well. Dragon-17 is being attended by 17,000 soldiers from nine NATO countries, as well as Georgia and Ukraine, “the ministry said.
In addition, according to information from the Polish Foreign Ministry, 3,500 units of equipment are involved in the exercise. The exercise is to be held in Poland from 20 to 29 September.
Among the NATO countries taking part in Dragon 17 are Poland, USA, Germany, Great Britain, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Italy, Bulgaria, as well as their allies from Georgia and Ukraine.
LIEPAJA, Latvia – An Italian Air Force TPS-77 radar element has been the sensor for NATO’s deployed air surveillance and control unit – the DARS* – supporting the integration into Latvia’s Air Defence System and NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).
Since late-August, exercise Ramstein Dust-II 17 has been taking place in Latvia. During the deployment exercise, elements of NATO’s Deployable Air Command and Control Centre moved to Lielvarde Air Base to test their expeditionary capabilities and practice their core functionalities such as providing area air surveillance, production and dissemination of the recognised air picture and tactical control of training air missions.
A key sensor that allows the unit to operate is the Italian Air Force TPS-77 radar deployed to Liepaja right on the Baltic Sea coast approximately 270 kilometres west of Lielvarde. The 20-strong Italian element set up their camp in Latvia to prepare and integrate into the exercise feeding radar data into the DARS system.
Creation of recognised air pictures starts with a radar element such as the Italian TPS-77. The data of all aircraft within its coverage area are fed into NATINAMDS.
At the deployed DARS this data is fused and transmitted to the Baltic Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava, Lithuania, which in turn sends its consolidated data to NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany.
At Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, the overall NATO recognised air picture for all of Europe is maintained together with the input from the southern CAOC at Torrejon, Spain.
When it redeploys to its home garrison more than 2,500 kilometres away at the beginning of October, the Italian radar element will have been part of NATO’s 24/7 mission of safeguarding the skies over Allies territories.
Some 58% Europeans support Ukraine’s joining NATO, and only 48% are for Ukraine’s joining the European Union.
This is evidenced by the findings of an opinion poll held by KANTAR PUBLIC and commissioned by Yalta European Strategy (YES).
Citizens of seven EU member states were polled within the survey – Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania, Great Britain, Poland and the Netherlands – based on a sample that was representative for each country (more than 1,000 people per country).
The findings of the public opinion poll were presented today, on the 16th of September, at the plenary session of Yes 14th Annual Meeting “Is This a New World? And What Does It Mean for Ukraine?”
Similar opinion polls, commissioned by YES, had been held in 2005 and 2007. 12 years ago, when the first poll was held, the situation was different: majority was for Ukraine’s becoming an EU member: 55% Europeans polled.
Today, the idea of Ukraine joining the EU is best supported in Lithuania and Poland (68% and 67% respectively), and least supported in the Netherlands (27%). The level of support in France, Germany and the UK is less than half of the people polled.
“Those who are against Ukraine’s joining the EU are explaining it using various reasons. One-third of the people polled believe that at this stage of development, the EU cannot afford a further enlargement. And a comparable number (31%) think that Ukraine’s accession would cause economic issues in the European Union,” the press release says.
Some 40% of those who support Ukraine’s membership believe that Ukraine is part of Europe. And 34% of the accession supporters stress that this step would boost democracy in Ukraine.
With regards to Ukraine’s joining NATO, the situation is different. In almost every country where the survey was held, most people are for accepting Ukraine as a member of the North-Atlantic Alliance.
“Even in France and the Netherlands, there are 49% people supporting this, and in other countries, the level of support is higher. In Lithuania and Poland, this number is 72% and 76% respectively,” the press service says.
The main argument for Ukraine’s integration with NATO, according to the Europeans, is its countering Russia (40% of those who support joining). Also, there are 8% who believe that Ukraine’s joining NATO will boost the ability of Europe to counter the Russian aggression.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Baltic Post.
On Thursday in Tallinn took place an informal meeting of Ministers of Defence of the European Union devoted mainly to issues related to cyber security.
The talks, which also concerned the assumptions of the common defence policy, security on the eastern and southern flank, were also attended by representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
The EU Ministers of Defence meeting which has just ended, politically was focused on Permanent Structure Cooperation (PESCO) – which was the most disputable part of some offensive being pursued by countries centered around France, Germany, partly Italy, but it also has skeptical observers.
Some countries, especially from Central and Eastern Europe are afraid that this initiative will lead to the creation of a two-speed Europe in the defense area. It is visible a great effort Mrs. Federica Mogherini and her associates to remove and neutralize these concerns – said Minister Macierewicz.
– The point is not to make an effort to duplicate our financial obligations within NATO so that, as part of our defence industry’s involvement, financial support will not be direct only to the largest French-German-Italian-Spanish industrial giants, but to guarantee the financing of the small or medium defence industry.
We do care not only to promote the southern flank, but also include the eastern flank. This is the position of Poland and it is convergent with the position of all states of Central and Eastern Europe – stressed the Head of MOD.
As noted Minister Macierewicz today’s meeting shows that the process of strengthening the integration has been continued and, unfortunately, exists a phenomenon relayed on mechanism that the greater the threats of disturbance and threats to peace, the more the Central European countries are presenting their common positions in common issues. –“ This is a good sign, because it affects the effectiveness of the action. It also influences on our biggest project – Three Seas Initiative – the most important political project that Poland needs to be continued” added the minister.
The Head of the Ministry of National Defence also referred to the decision game in which all Ministers of Defence took part during the meeting. This was the first decision game that kind and it was based on the scenario involved a cyberattack on a hypothetical EU quarter.
During a visit to Tallinn the Head of MOD met with UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix.
Discussions focused on increasing the participation of Polish soldiers, mainly officers, in UN missions. As Minister Macierewicz emphasized, the Polish ministry is ready to discuss about the proposals that the United Nations has offered to Poland. Under-Secretary-General was interested in our presence, among others. in Mali, South Africa, areas which are considered to be the places and sources of migration waves threatening Europe.
Scheduled to start Sept. 14 and run for a week, the so-called Zapad exercise is being billed as Russia’s largest war game since the end of the Cold War.
OTTAWA—Canadian troops in Latvia will have front-row seats to a massive Russian military exercise this month that has set NATO on edge and sparked calls for calm across eastern Europe.
Scheduled to start Sept. 14 and run for a week, the so-called Zapad exercise is being billed as Russia’s largest war game since the end of the Cold War more than 25 years ago.
It’s also the first of its kind since NATO decided to send four brigades to eastern Europe to prevent further Russian aggression, after Moscow annexed Crimea and began to support separatist forces in Ukraine.
Canada is leading one of those multinational brigades, with 450 troops based in Latvia alongside counterparts from fellow NATO members Albania, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia.
Zapad has already caused jitters in eastern Europe, with Poland announcing this week that it will close the airspace on its border with Belarus — which is taking part in Zapad with Russia — for the entire month.
Karlis Eihenbaums, Latvia’s ambassador to Canada, said his countrymen are trying to “stay calm and carry on,” but he acknowledged that there are worries there, too.
“They’re trying to check our central nervous system,” Eihenbaums said of Russia, which he compared to a neighbourhood bully. “We are keeping a very close eye on the preparations for this exercise.”
NATO and the Canadian military have likewise said they plan to remain, in the words of one NATO official, “vigilant and alert,” but also “calm, balanced and measured.”
But Canadian Forces spokesperson Col. Jay Janzen said Russia’s “lack of respect for the sovereignty of its neighbours,” including Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, has created an atmosphere of distrust.
“It’s not about exercises per se, or Exercise Zapad 2017,” Janzen said. “It’s about the climate that Russia has created over the past number of years with regards to its actions on the world stage.”
The fact Russia has largely barred international observers from watching the Zapad exercise except in an extremely limited way has only exacerbated that those concerns.
Canada and Russia are among several dozen countries that have signed an international agreement that requires any military exercise involving more than 13,000 soldiers be open to outside observers.
But while NATO estimates that between 60,000 and 100,000 soldiers will be involved in Zapad, Russia says it is running several exercises concurrently, all of which will contain fewer than 13,000 troops.
Russia has said it will host a handful of foreign observers during one day of the exercise. But they will be limited on what they can see and do, which NATO says falls far short of Moscow’s legal requirements.
That has sparked complaints from the alliance as well as countries like Canada.
“All nations have the right to exercise their forces, but nations should also respect their commitments to transparency,” said the NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive details.
“Predictability and transparency are especially important when there is increased military activity along our borders to reduce risks and avoid any miscalculations, misperceptions or incidents.”
In addition to sending troops to Latvia to deter Russia, Canada has also recently deployed four CF-18s to patrol the airspace over Romania for the next month and has kept a frigate in the region for years.
The U.S. Army’s rapid reaction force in Europe is under-equipped, undermanned and inadequately organized to confront military aggression from Russia or its high-tech proxies, according to an internal study that some who have read it view as a wake-up call as the Trump administration seeks to deter an emboldened Vladimir Putin.
The Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade, a bulwark of the NATO alliance that has spent much of the last decade and a half rotating in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, lacks “essential capabilities needed to accomplish its mission effectively and with decisive speed,” according to the analysis by the brigade, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the unit’s paratroopers were the first American troops to reach the Baltic states to deter another potential incursion on NATO’s eastern flank.
But the assessment details a series of “capability gaps” the unit has identified during recent training with Ukrainian troops with experience battling Russian-backed separatists, who have used cheap drones and electronic warfare tools to pinpoint targets for artillery barrages and devastated government armored vehicles with state-of-the-art Russian antitank missiles.
Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army’s years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.
“The lessons we learned from our Ukrainian partners were substantial. It was a real eye-opener on the absolute need to look at ourselves critically,” Col. Gregory Anderson, who commissioned the report earlier this year during his stint as the brigade’s commander, told POLITICO after it had obtained a copy of the report. “We felt compelled to write about our experiences and pass on what we saw and learned.”
The report has so far been distributed only through internal channels to the Army staff and other military headquarters.
The analysis comes to light as Russia gears up for one of the largest military exercises in the post-Soviet era — a weeklong war game called Zapad that could involve as many as 100,000 troops and will be held later this month in Belarus. It also comes as the Pentagon seeks to step up its effort to deter Russia, including by rotating other American ground units on a temporary basis into Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries to demonstrate resolve. That’s part of an Obama administration effort known as the European Reassurance Initiative.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, parachuted into Iraq in the early days of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and saw intense combat in Afghanistan. While its roughly 4,000 soldiers would be no match for a Russian assault on Europe on their own, the 173rd is considered a primary element in deterring Moscow from threatening NATO’s borders — particularly since the departure of two U.S. Army tank brigades from Germany was completed in 2013.
Yet years of deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, where the 173rd mostly confronted ragtag groups of insurgents, have dulled some of its skills in the type of higher-end combat that Russia has been sharpening in Ukraine, the report found.
Some of the problems the report identifies have low-tech solutions that the Army could implement relatively easily. Amazingly, camouflage nets to hide vehicles from enemy helicopters or drones are “hard-to-find luxuries for tactical units.”
To fill other gaps, the report pins hope on a pair of new Army vehicle programs that could help the brigade if they are fielded soon enough.
The 173rd’s aging up-armored Humvees, designed to protect against roadside bombs in Iraq, would be “easy prey” for Russian armored vehicles, and the report recommends replacing them with the forthcoming Ground Mobility Vehicle, a much lighter-weight, more mobile truck. The Army announced this summer that it is buying nearly 300 of these vehicles from General Dynamics to equip the 173rd and stateside paratroop and special operations units, although none will carry the 30 mm guns that the report recommends some be outfitted with.
The report also calls for the brigade to be equipped with a small contingent of light tanks, which would offer much-needed protection to forward scouts against Russian anti-armor missiles. That solution is likely a ways off. The Army is only expected to issue a formal request for proposals for its light tank program later this year, a first step to developing a new weapon system.
Even if the service quickly settles on an already available prototype, it will be several years before the new vehicles reach the 173rd or other Army units. In the meantime, the brigade will have to rely on heavy armor units that rotate regularly from stateside bases.
The common thread running through the paper is the challenge posed by Russia’s jammers and other electronic warfare tools.
An enemy equipped with these “could effectively neutralize a GPS system from 50 miles away using one-fifth the power of a tactical radio,” the report estimates, so “we should assume that GPS will be either unavailable or unreliable for the duration of the conflict if the [brigade] faces a near-peer threat or sophisticated non-state actors.”
Here, too, some of the solutions are low-tech. High-frequency or HF radios are more difficult for enemy electronic warfare specialists to pinpoint and jam than the satellite radios that have become the norm for U.S. units over the past 15 years. HF radio equipment and training have fallen by the wayside in the American military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, but not in some allied militaries.
The shortfalls have required the 173rd to call on allies from Latvia to help it learn how to communicate in the face of Russian jamming — a stark indicator of how badly knowledge of a key communication method has degraded in the American force.
In February, according to the paper, a Latvian military communications specialist spent a week teaching HF techniques to the 173rd, and since then, the brigade’s paratroopers have honed their HF proficiency during a joint exercise with Latvian troops in Germany. To fix the problem, though, the Army needs to systemically resume teaching HF radio communications stateside, the report says.
U.S. artillery also relies heavily on GPS, and as the 173rd has learned during exercises in the Baltic states, there is more to breaking that dependency. Before GPS, artillerymen used a set of star charts called the Army Ephemeris to precisely estimate their positions before targeting the enemy — and the Army has not updated those charts in more than two decades.
To better protect against jamming and spoofing and go on the offensive against enemy drones, the brigade and other Europe-based units have recently bought off-the-shelf commercial systems, and a more capable Army system is scheduled to come online in 2023 — but the report says the 173rd needs better jamming gear sooner than that, along with 10 small teams of electronic warfare specialists to use it.