NATO fighter-jets patrolling Baltic airspace were scrambled once last week to identify and escort a Russian military plane in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The Alliance’s fighters on Oct. 18 intercepted a Su-24 plane on its way from Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad to mainland Russia, it said.
The aircraft flew according to a flight plan, its transponder was switched off and the crew did not maintain radio contact with the regional air traffic control center.
NATO’s fighter-jets conduct the Baltic air-policing mission from Lithuania and Estonia.
On October 24-26, Baltic Host 2017 exercise will be held in Riga to imitate a scenario that includes escalation of crisis in the Baltic region, the Latvian Defense Ministry reported.
The goal of the exercise is to test hosting of NATO units in the Baltic territory and learn the hosting support concept.
Host country support concept is civil and military support provided by the host country to the allied forces and organizations in its territory during the peace, crisis or war situation.
The exercise has been held every year since 2009 on a rotation principle. This year Latvia is the lead in the exercise.
Participating in the exercise will be the Baltic defense sector, representatives of the NATO Multinational Corps Northeast Szczecin, the Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, representatives of NATO integration units from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps in Italy and the German Armed Forces.
German Navy’s combat support ship EGV Frankfurt am Main which damaged its stern in March this year is ready to deploy again after undergoing repair works in Kiel.
The ship sustained stern damage while reversing into a sea lock at Wilhelmshaven navy base and had to sail for Kiel where it was repaired by German Navy Yards.
Now that the repairs are completed, the EGV Frankfurt am Main is set for a deployment with NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2 in the Aegean Sea.
The ship and its crew are scheduled to depart the Wilhelmshaven naval base on October 19 to relieve German Navy frigate FGS Lübeck currently deployed to SNMG2.
Frankfurt am Main is expected to remain in waters off the Turkish coast for the next six months, returning home in March 2018.
SNMG2 is currently monitoring and patrolling the Aegean Sea and reporting all migrant boats leaving the Turkish coasts for Europe.
Another goal of the operation is an increase in the cooperation between the European border agency Frontex and the maritime authorities of Turkey and Greece. By doing so, NATO hopes to curb the migration flow and smuggling activities in the Aegean Sea.
It is possible to make cooperation between the Swedish and Baltics states’ armed forces even closer, Anne Wieslander, Director of the Future Europe Initiative of the Atlantic Council and Secretary-General of the Swedish Defense Association, believes.
Since Sweden is geographically so close to the Baltics and, according to its security policy, Sweden is supposed to be capable of helping others, these contacts should be stepped up and Sweden and the Baltic states should get to know each other better, the expert said in an interview with LETA.
Closer cooperation is essential and includes a possibility to increase cooperation between the air and naval forces.
We could get involved even more, for example, Sweden could participate in the airspace policing mission with its aircraft. I do not think that it would be impossible, Wieslander said, adding that Swedish ships might work together with the Baltic states’ naval forces.
The secretary-general of the Swedish Defense Association underlined that Sweden is not alone in its fight against Russian attacks on Western values and is fighting this battle together with other EU member states. Sweden is also a close NATO partner and a member of the UN Security Council. I think that we are not alone in our feeling that Russia is challenging us, the expert said.
She said that Russia targets Sweden just like many other Western countries, but that Nordic countries are not the main focus of Russian propaganda and disinformation.
In Wieslander’s words, Sweden feels Russian pressure on two main issues – Ukraine and Sweden’s possible accession to NATO. Since Sweden has taken a very strict stance on the Ukraine war, it has even seen incidents like fake letters being sent out in the name of the Swedish defense minister.
kmjWieslander said that Swedes have traditionally been skeptical in their views about Russia, which is also shown by public opinion polls. In Wieslander’s words, this sentiment prevailed in Sweden even before the annexation of Crimea and it can be explained by Sweden’s history.
ORZYSZ, Poland — For the second time this year, the 2d Cavalry Regiment deployed a Squadron of soldiers to the Battle Group Poland in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s enhanced Forward Presence initiative. The 2nd Sqdn., 2CR deployed to the BGP in March 2017 and will be replaced by the 3rd Sqdn., 2CR later this month.
The Wolfpack Sqdn. began their forward deployment from Rose Barracks, Germany to Orzysz, Poland, Oct. 9, 2017. The Sqdn. traveled in two serials along separate routes along with the British Army Light Dragoons Element.
Along the route, refuel on the move sights were identified for the convoy element to stop. These sights allowed for the soldiers to refuel their assigned vehicles, conduct maintenance operations and reset for the remainder of the drive.
“My mission today is to ensure that all military vehicles get put where they are needed at each stop,” said Spc. Adan Castillo, 3/2CR ROM site road guard. “The first chalk comes in, they pull up and I ground guide them to where they need to go so the military vehicles can fuel up and do whatever they need to do.”
Each night, the Wolfpack Sqdn. stopped at an identified rest over night point. These locations were selected through coordination with the NATO Forces Integration Unit and ensured the soldiers met the required amount of rest hours before continuing on to their next assigned RON sight.
En route to their final destination, soldiers from Lightning Troop, 3/2CR stopped in Bydgoszcz, Poland to participate in NATO Day with the local community, Oct. 14. The engagement team provided static displays of weapon systems and military vehicles. The soldiers had the opportunity to interact with the local community throughout the day.
“We are just training here in Poland to show our support for the Polish military, show them how we train and just to support NATO and NATO efforts while we’re here,” said Capt. Russell Tabolt, Lightning Troop, 3/2CR commander.
The following day, soldiers from the Kronos Troop, 3/2CR, provided similar displays for the community of Elblag, Poland. In addition to seeing the inside of the Strykers and interacting with the American soldiers, children were able to have their faces camouflaged throughout the event.
“Our Squadron was tasked to maintain the [Battle Group] Poland and our task for the next months is to establish and continue training with our multinational coalition partners,” said Capt. Yevgen Gutman, Kronos Troop, 3/2CR commander.
After more than 1,100 kilometers of travel, the Wolfpack Sqdn. arrived to the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Oct. 15.
“Our formation, which includes soldiers from Croatia, Romania, the United Kingdom, as well as soldiers from the United States, will show [sic.] the opportunity for us to highlight our NATO resolve and the NATO alliance,” said Lt. Col. Scott Cheney, the incoming BGP commander.
Cheney will assume command of the battle group from Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux during the transfer of authority scheduled for Oct. 20, 2017.
In an interview with the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini has stated that he does not rule out the possibility that his country will join the North Atlantic Alliance in the future.
“Neither Finland nor Sweden is yet part of NATO, and as I understand, our countries are not currently discussing accession to NATO. We should not exclude the possibility of joining NATO.
Every country should have that opportunity, and that is why open-door politics is important to us,” said Soini.
At the same time, he specified that “the position of the current government of Finland is such” that it [joining NATO] is currently “irrelevant”.
Additionally, Soini confirmed Finland’s commitment to the policy of sanctions against Russia for its actions in the Crimea and the Donbas: “I do not want to speculate on this issue: for now, as you can see, the EU foreign ministers have repeatedly and unanimously continued the package of sanctions for the next six months.”
I am pleased to announce that the next NATO Summit will be held on 11 and 12 July 2018 in Brussels, Belgium.
We will further strengthen the bond between Europe and North America on which our Alliance is founded, as we continue to adapt our Alliance for the 21st century. In response to evolving threats, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation. Our multinational battlegroups in the east of the Alliance are now fully operational and we are strengthening our presence in the Black Sea region. We are also stepping up our efforts against cyber-attacks and hybrid threats.
We will build on our valuable work with partner nations and organisations to fight terrorism and keep our neighbourhood stable. We are boosting our mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces to ensure their country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists. We are supporting the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, and working to strengthen partners like Iraq. We are further deepening the relationship between NATO and the European Union, for the benefit of all our nations.
Belgium has generously hosted NATO Headquarters for fifty years, and I warmly welcome that our summit will take place in our new Headquarters in Brussels. I look forward to a successful Summit in July 2018.
NATO would not be able to rebuff a potential Russian attack on its eastern flank, according to an internal report cited on October 20 by German weekly Der Spiegel.
The paper, titled Progress Report On The Strengthened Deterrence And Defense Capability Of The Alliance, pointed to significant deficiencies.
“NATO’s ability to logistically support rapid reinforcement in the strongly expanded territory of the European commander’s area of responsibility has atrophied since the end of the Cold War,” Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying.
Even the strengthening of the NATO Response Force (NRF) has failed to ensure that it could “react rapidly and — if necessary — sustainably,” it said.
The report cited a downsized command structure since the fall of communism as one of the paramount elements that has undermined the alliance’s defense capabilities, Der Spiegel quoted the report as saying.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu declined to comment on the German magazine report but said that alliance “forces are more ready and able to deploy than at any time in decades.”
Lungescu said that efforts are “under way to ensure that the NATO command structure remains robust, agile, and fit for purpose.”
The alliance’s command structure is to be discussed at a meeting of NATO defense ministers next month.
NATO’s relations with Russia are at their lowest since the Cold War over the conflict in Ukraine.
Thanks to cooperation with the US, special operational capability of the Latvian National Armed Forces has reached a very high quality, said Latvia’s Chief of Defense Leonids Kalnins during his meeting with commander of the United States Army Special Operations Command in Europe Kenneth Tovo.
The Latvian Defense Ministry reported that the officials discussed regional security issues, US support to Latvia under the Atlantic Resolve operation, and Latvian-US cooperation in military exercises.
“Special operational capability of the Latvian National Armed Forces has reached a very high quality, and it ha been done largely thanks to the excellent cooperation with the US.
Today’s challenges make us intensity development of special capabilities and deepen cooperation with the US. Highly qualified US specialists with huge experience in crisis regions offer significant contribution to the growth of the Latvian army.
Also, Latvian troops share their experience, therefore there are winners on both sides,” said Kalnins.
Tovo underscored that Latvia is a loyal NATO member state and a significant US ally. “Our troops shoulder by shoulder served in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Permanent presence of the US special troops in Latvia and the Baltic states since 2014 is a proof of our resolution to deter any aggression against our allies and the Alliance,” he said.
Next year will be called “the year of integration,” where the U.S. will work even harder to improve interoperability with all NATO allies as well as with other partners such as Sweden and Finland, said Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges.
The commander of U.S. Army Europe said 2017 has been a “year of implementation,” meaning initiating rotational armored brigade combat teams and combat aviation brigades, emplacing Army preposition stocks, and standing up an enhanced forward-presence battle group in Poland.
That implementation was a direct result of decisions reached by NATO at the 2016 Warsaw Summit, which was in essence a transition from assuring allies to deterring would-be aggressors, he said.
Hodges and three European allies spoke at a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition, Oct. 11.
Besides working on interoperability, Hodges said “we will continue to learn from the massive Zapad exercises” just completed by the Russians in Belarus. “Some things will take us a few months as we continue to study the forensics.”
Other lessons already gleaned are that improved intelligence sharing with NATO and other partners helped the alliance to better understand the Zapad exercises.
“It’s the best I’ve seen in years in terms of intelligence sharing,” he said. “We were all focused on trying to understand the Zapad exercises. People had their eyes wide open.”
Hodges said there are three things that need to be more interoperable among allies in Europe.
First is secure, tactical FM radios at the company and battalion level. At that level, he said, there’s a lot of interdependence. Also, he said, radios at that level must be able to operate effectively inside a “real nasty” cyber or electronic warfare environment that allies “might face in the Baltics or Poland, for example.”
Second, the common operating picture, or COP, must be truly “common.” No matter who manufactures a device, there must be seamless information sharing among allies, he said. Blue-force tracking is one example of what a COP can share, he said.
Third is digital fires, he said, providing an example of getting into a counter-fire situation, where the radar from one country should still be able to relay the mission digitally to the fire direction center and then onto the guns to do the counter-fire.
“If you can’t do that in a very short amount of time, then you’re never going to be able to strike back at who’s shooting at you,” Hodges said.
Dynamic Front is an exercise that will be begin in February at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, Germany, he said, where several nations using 100 different firing systems will focus on making them interoperable.
The Army is also honing its interoperability with allies during current exercise Swift Response 17-2, taking place Oct. 2-20 in Hohenfels, Germany, and including more than 7,000 participants from Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
SHARING THE LOAD
Hodges said that there are many times that the U.S. must rely on European partners for capabilities that it lacks. He provided some examples.
The Army depends on Romania, the United Kingdom and Germany to provide bridging capability, and their bridges have been used a number of times for river crossings, he said.
Also, the Army doesn’t have much in the way of short-range air defense. Romania is one of the countries providing that, he noted.
The Army is also leasing British heavy equipment transports to move tanks on European highways, he said.
Lt. Gen. Leo Beulen, commander, Royal Netherlands Army said that unfortunately, his nation’s defense budget was slashed in 2011 and the army was forced to sell off all of their Leopard main battle tanks to Finland and Canada, “not that we didn’t need them anymore, but because we had to find the money.”
With changes in the world since then, the Netherlands needs them badly, he said.
“Now we find cooperation with Germany, where we have a German battalion of Leopard 2 tanks, [embedded in] a Dutch company that is operating within a Netherlands brigade,” he said. “So together with Germany, we could restore the main battle tank capacity.”
Another example of where the Netherlands contributes to the collective security, he said, is providing protection with its Patriot air defense system. The Netherlands is one of the few countries in Europe that has them.
Maj. Gen. Karl Engelbrektson, Swedish Army chief of staff, said there are niche capabilities partners can bring. For instance, Sweden provides other nations with artillery-locating radar, ground-based air defense radar and smart munitions, among others.
He framed cooperation in terms of economics as well as security, particularly after the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Although Sweden is not a member of NATO, “it is not a neutral country,” he said. “We are military non-aligned. But, we adhere to NATO’s principles of military business because we believe that we need to do things together. … So for us it’s logic that we have to deploy troops far from home to be part of securing the world order and the values we live for.”
Last month, Sweden hosted an exercise with 20,000 troops from NATO and European partners, he said. During exercises such as this, “we learned that we can learn from each other. For example, there are some tactical things we developed living close to Russia in similar terrain and climate.”
Maj. Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, general commander of the Polish Armed Forces, said his nation has increased its military budget to contribute more to the collective defense of Europe.
Hodges was asked if he’d prefer Army aviation to be permanently stationed in Europe.
“I would prefer to have Army aviation permanently stationed in Europe, as opposed to rotational units,” he said. “Rotational aviation is expensive, and I worry that at some point the Army [will say] ‘I can’t keep this up.’ If [European Reassurance Initiative] money dries up or we get less of it, it becomes more difficult for the Army to fund.”
On the other hand, Hodges said, “I like rotational forces because I can do more with them and they’re here for nine months, like the armored brigade. Their opstempo is three times what it is back at home station, so you get a lot of strategic effect.”
Regarding ground forces, Hodges said he’s pleased with U.S. Stryker capability in Europe, in that they can be fitted with the 30mm cannon, Javelin missiles, and counter-unmanned aerial vehicle systems. Additionally, he said, they can also navigate the highways. Tanks, while essential, have to be transported by rail or heavy equipment transporters, so they’re less visible to the populace, restricted to the training areas.
RAMSTEIN, Germany – Allied Air Command successfully accomplished support for the US-led Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) exercise Formidable Shield 17 from September 24 to October 18, 2017.
This tactical level BMD exercise was conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) on behalf of the US Sixth Fleet. Allied Air Command enabled the datalink architecture through NATO’ system of systems that can manage, communicate and provide decision-making information to NATO command entities.
A US exercise with NATO involvement, Formidable Shield 17 demonstrated the capability of Nations and the Alliance to execute live intercepts of missile threats using a complex system of sensors and shooters in defence of NATO Allies’ territories, populations and forces from the sea.
This exercise provided nations the ability to connect fire units and sensors to NATO’s data-link architecture. With the assistance of US Joint Interface Tactical Control Officers and through a complex architecture, Allied ships and aircraft were able to integrate surveillance pictures from the tactical to the operational levels of command.
For the first time in Allied Air Command history a fully Integrated Air and Missile Defence Picture involving joint assets was used to support a no-notice launch and simultaneous engagement of ballistic and air defence targets to test the live-fire version of the defence in depth concept of operations.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States participated with forces in exercise FORMIDABLE SHIELD 17; Belgium and Denmark also send staff members. In total, 14 ships, ten aircraft, and more than 3.300 personnel participated in this exercise. NATO AWACS sorties conducted important link integration and range safety functions throughout the exercise.