Interoperability: Connecting NATO Forces

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  • Last updated: 11 May. 2012 15:11

An Alliance of 28 nations can only work effectively together in joint operations if provisions are in place to ensure smooth cooperation. NATO has been striving for the ability of NATO forces to work together since the Alliance was founded in 1949. Interoperability has become even more important since the Alliance began mounting out-of-area operations in the early 1990s.

NATO’s interoperability policy defines the term as the ability for Allies to act together coherently, effectively and efficiently to achieve tactical, operational and strategic objectives. Specifically, it enables forces, units and/or systems to operate together and allows them to share common doctrine and procedures, each others’ infrastructure and bases, and to be able to communicate. Interoperability reduces duplication, enables pooling of resources, and produces synergies among the 28 Allies, and whenever possible with partner countries.

Components

Interoperability does not necessarily require common military equipment. What is important is that the equipment can share common facilities, and is able to interact, connect and communicate, exchange data and services with other equipment.

Through its technical (including hardware, equipment, armaments and systems), procedural (including doctrines and procedures) and human (including terminology and training) dimensions, and complemented by information as a critical transversal element, interoperability supports the implementation of such recent NATO initiatives as Smart Defence and Connected Forces. 

Mechanisms

Interoperable solutions can only be achieved through the effective employment of standardization, training, exercises, lessons learned, demonstrations, tests and trials.

By strengthening relationships with the defence and security industry and by using open standards to the maximum extent possible, NATO is pursuing interoperability as a force multiplier and a streamliner of national efforts.

Evolution

NATO militaries have achieved high level of interoperability through decades of joint planning, training and exercises. More recently, Alliance members have put their interoperability into practice and developed it further during joint operations and missions in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere. These operations have also enabled NATO’s partner countries to improve interoperability with the Alliance.