NATO tests its readiness in the Baltics

  • 09 Nov. 2015 - 19 Nov. 2015
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  • Last updated: 17 Nov. 2015 16:32

NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) trains for the first time in the Baltic States. The ARRC is one of the nine High Readiness Headquarters which can be quickly dispatched to lead NATO troops on missions within or beyond the territory of NATO member states.

Officers and soldiers of the ARRC are taking part in a two-week command post exercise named Arrcade Fusion 15 from 9 to19 November 2015. Some 1,700 personnel from 20 NATO countries and Sweden are mitigating a fictitious crisis from a deployed tent camp at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, with elements working concurrently in Estonia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom.

They are simulating command over the land forces which were deployed by NATO commanders after the approval of the North Atlantic Council. The exercise scenario is designed to prepare them to deal with any crisis situation in the world.

“We must work fast to understand the immediate issues, factor the strategic implications of our actions, and provide support and clear direction to the division and brigade commanders on the ground,” said Lt Col Andrew Philpott, Chief of Operations at the ARRC operations centre. “This NATO-approved security force has been busy.”

“We have to practise to stay ready to deploy at any time for a wide range of missions from disaster management, humanitarian assistance and peace support to counter-terrorism and high-intensity war fighting,” he added.

This exercise is a major step for the ARRC, based in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, to prove it is ready to do its job at a critical time for the Alliance. It is a visible temporary NATO presence in the east and demonstrates NATO’s commitment to ensure the security of its Allies. In addition, it is very important for the UK as they will be providing the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force’s (VJTF) lead Brigade for 2017.  

Testing the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force

“Arrcade Fusion 15 is a test-bed for elements of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and a way to strengthen our partnership with our Allies, especially those in the Baltic region,” said Maj Gen Roberto D’Alessandro, Deputy Commander ARRC.

“For example, one test is to distribute command, which is aimed at making us more rapid. Our exercise control and other sections are split between the UK and Latvia with a limited amount of personnel from the UK deployed here in Latvia,” he added.

Earlier in October, the supporting elements of the ARRC moved equipment, vehicles and personnel to the Baltic States. It is the first time since they were activated in September that the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) trained in their role of facilitating coordination between the host nation and deployed forces into their country. The NFIU is a small headquarters – or unit- that helps ensure a faster deployment of the arriving forces if necessary.

A war-game scenario on computers

The exercise is played out behind computer screens. The action is simulated and the scenario is fictitious. However, when the computer launches an attack, the officers who must deal with it are under real pressure to get the response right.        

“Our multi-faceted exercise scenario is run by a computer simulation that challenges us to make correct and timely decisions under pressure in an extremely complex and adapting environment,” explained Dr Dave Slogget, a scenario advisor for the ARRC.

Regular inputs add to the realism of the scenario. Simulating the role and effects of hybrid warfare, newscasts and cyber attacks is an integral part of the exercise. The simulation injects hundreds of activities each day, each requiring thought, planning, communication and staff action. The problems range from formal military aggression to political decisions, from economic disruption to humanitarian crisis.

The ARRC, like other NATO Rapid Deployable Corps, can command and control forces from the size of a brigade numbering thousands of troops up to a corps of tens of thousands. Each NATO Rapid Deployable Corps is capable of commanding up to 60,000 soldiers.

More background information

Headquarters (HQ) ARRC is a NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Headquarters, founded in 1992 in Germany and headquartered in Gloucestershire since August 2010.

Although HQ ARRC’s ‘framework nation’ is the United Kingdom, comprising approximately 60 percent of the overall staff, 18 other NATO and non-NATO members contribute the rest of the personnel (Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and the United States). Croatia and New Zealand plan to join the ARRC before the end of the year.