The world’s preeminent defensive alliance is readying to demonstrate its capabilities in its largest exercise since 2002, said Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command in Italy.
Foggo, who held a Pentagon news conference Friday, will command Exercise Trident Juncture, which will run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 in Norway and surrounding sea and air spaces.
The exercise brings together 45,000 personnel from the 29 NATO allies, and partner nations Sweden and Finland. “Allies are contributing about 150 aircraft over 60 ships and 10,000 rolling or tracked vehicles,” Foggo said.
The purpose of the exercise is to test alliance readiness and responsiveness. “Let me emphasize that this is an exercise,” he said. “This is for training, but it is real because the lessons we learned are very real and they’ll benefit us in our desire to become more resilient and stronger together as an alliance.”
Simply holding the exercise and demonstrating the capabilities of NATO has a deterrent effect, the admiral said.
NATO has invited observers to the exercise including Russia. “Exercises like this show that NATO is strong,” he said. “Together, we’re more effective at upholding our common values and preserving peace. Trident Juncture will prove that in this very unpredictable world … NATO remains an anchor of stability; 70 years young, 70 years old, the strongest alliance in the history of Europe.”
Trident Juncture will exercise all aspects of the alliance and test capabilities in all domains. Air, land, maritime, special operations and amphibious forces will participate. It is designed to test the interoperability of national forces.
Foggo’s Canadian deputy, army Lt. Gen. Christian Juneau, will command the land forces. “I will be where I belong, at sea on either USS Mount Whitney or bouncing around some of the other ships out there,” he said. “And it’s going to be sporty because this is wintertime. This is the North Atlantic. And I think it’ll be a challenge for all those nations to come up, some are more used to it than others. The Norwegians are certainly used to that kind of weather and those kind of seas. The American Marines that come over, this is going to be a great opportunity for them to fight in the archipelago, fight without their boots in the sand, and come ashore in Norway and work in cold weather operations.”
Testing NATO’s 5,000-strong Response Force is at the core of the exercise, but it also tests logistics. “I call it the sixth domain of warfare,” he said. “Moving 45,000 people, and 10,000 vehicles, and 60 some odd ships, and 120 aircraft around the theater is not easy, so this is a test of our ability to do that rapidly.”
U.S. forces handle logistics on a global scale, and NATO is looking to develop the same capabilities. “In order to deter, you have to be present,” Foggo said. “You’ve got to be there and you’ve got to be there quickly.”