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CHIPS Articles: Trident Juncture 2015: Testing NATO Readiness, Resilience and Speed

Trident Juncture 2015: Testing NATO Readiness, Resilience and Speed
By Sharon Anderson - October-December 2015
NATO’s largest exercise since 2002, Trident Juncture 2015 (TRJE15), is underway. Designed to test and train for any emerging threat whether by land, sea, air, cyber, or hybrid warfare, TRJE 15 is complex and representative of modern warfare challenges and the rising geopolitical and geoeconomic pressure points throughout the world.

The exercise involves 36,000 personnel from more than 30 Allied and partner nations, and takes place throughout Italy, Portugal, Spain, the Atlantic Ocean, and their adjacent waters. The month-long exercise began Oct. 3 and runs to Nov. 6.

U.S. participation includes about 6,500 personnel, aboard Navy warships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and a variety of aircraft, ground forces and equipment.

In addition to partner countries, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, Sweden, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Australia and Ukraine, the exercise includes participation from more than 12 major international organizations, aid agencies and non-governmental organizations. The European Union and African Union will also participate in the exercise, as well as industry, explained French Air Force General Denis Mercier. Mercier was recently commissioned as Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, and leads, from his headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, the NATO command charged with modernizing and transforming the Alliance.

For the first time, defense industries have been invited to observe a NATO exercise to bring fresh insights and possible technological solutions to accelerate military innovation, according to a TRJE15 news release.

Gen. Mercier explained industry involvement is very important and that NATO regularly engages in industry forums. “We want industry to understand our requirements now and for the future,” Gen. Mercier said in a briefing to reporters Oct. 15 in Washington.

Describing all the intricately planned components within TRJE15, Gen. Mercier said Trident Juncture is much more than a training exercise. Seventeen nations have linked their own exercises testing and training within the larger TRJE15 scenario and getting the maximum benefit from the unique opportunity, he said. “It is a very interesting way to test and evaluate how we meet the crises of today and provide a way for people to engage. It is an added value to the participating nations.”

The goal is to train and test the newly reinforced NATO Response Force (NRF) and the allied forces — including land, air, maritime and special forces — and certify Joint Force Command (JFC) Headquarters, Brunssum to be on standby to command and control the force if it is activated in 2016, when NATO wants NRF at full readiness, according to a TRJE15 news release.

The exercise will also certify the core NRF components, comprising: NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Spain; Joint Force Air Component (JFAC) in Italy; U.K. Maritime Force; U.S. Special Operations Command Europe; and the Polish Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Task Force.

TRJE15 consists of two parts: a command post exercise (CPX) Oct. 3-16, and a live firing and training exercise (LIVEX) that takes place Oct. 21-Nov. 6. The CPX covers the entire exercise area, from Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and JFC Brunssum down to the unit level in Italy, Spain, Portugal and offshore, according to a NATO release.

ACT’s Joint Warfare Center of Stavanger, Norway, developed the nearly 4,000-page exercise scenario called “Sorotan.” “Sor” means “south” in Norwegian and “OTAN,” for the French acronym for NATO. The scenario describes political instability, ethnic tensions and socio-economic problems, aggravated by a water shortage in the fictional Cerasia region far from NATO territory. These factors lead to the nation of “Kamon” invading a weaker country “Lakuta” to seize a key dam. The United Nations gives the Alliance the mandate to intervene. NATO also has to deal with violence against the civilian population, a humanitarian crisis and hostile government-controlled media, according to a TRJE15 news release.

Although the scenario is realistic, encompassing all aspects of modern warfare and many present-day security challenges, the exercise is not directed at any nation, Gen. Mercier explained. The exercise was planned before the stealthy Russian invasion into Ukraine and was two-years in the planning.

At the same time, real-world events demand a challenging, relevant exercise, Gen. Mercier said. “There are many mission threads, [such as] hybrid warfare and cyber, which test the command and control and interoperability of a Rapid Response Force in large scale manoeuvres.”

The LIVEX will feature high-intensity, joint warfighting and countering hybrid warfare threats and other new tactics of war.

Additionally, the scenario will facilitate the applications of NATO’s Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) and the comprehensive approach to crisis management by bringing together a diverse set of military and civilian organizations to plan and conduct all stages of a multinational crisis response operation.

Command and control between forces during the LIVEX will be conducted over the federated mission network, Gen. Mercier said. “It is a very sophisticated network linking all the nations and testing their interoperability and ability to communicate.” There is also another affiliated network which is used by the different Headquarters staffs to direct the LIVEX events, he said.

The scale of the LIVEX is staggering. It will be NATO’s first large-scale exercise since its involvement in Afghanistan: four brigade-size units and more than 60 ships and 140 aircraft will participate, according to a TRJE15 release. Amphibious landings on four beaches, carrier operations and CBRN defense training are planned.

Maritime forces in the exercise include more than 60 ships and submarines, eight maritime patrol aircraft, 12 MV-22 Ospreys and more than 3,000 marines. Opposing forces consist of 20 surface ships and four submarines, plus aircraft, across the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic.

Air assets will be used in support of army, maritime and special operations forces, conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, close air support and troop transport missions. Personnel recovery and search and rescue missions are also scheduled, according to NATO. The LIVEX events will occur simultaneously directed by different Headquarters staffs to ensure training is conducted in a complex environment that will improve the NATO Alliance’s ability to integrate forces and respond rapidly.

Although the scope of the scenario is complex and challenging for responding forces, their responses to threats within the LIVEX are not pre-planned, Gen. Mercier said. “Forces will have to adapt; Headquarters staffs will inject surprise into the scenario and forces will have to react, the Headquarters [staffs] will also have to adapt.”

TRJE15 has a robust cybersecurity component that will include simulated malicious attacks on computers and electronic jamming in a contested radio frequency environment which will affect radars. Forces will have to find an alternative to using the federated mission network for command and control, Gen. Mercier explained. “It will test the lines of communication,” he said.

According to a TRJE15 release, the Joint Electronic Warfare Core Staff is composed of nine nations, among them the United States, France, and Germany. The staff is based at the Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton, United Kingdom. The Joint Electronic Warfare Core Staff will also simulate and attack from aboard vessels, by jamming the means of communication and reconnaissance employed by maritime and air elements.

At the conclusion of the Command Post Exercise of Trident Juncture 2015, the Headquarters Staff from Joint Force Command Headquarters, Brunssum was officially certified to lead the NATO Response Force, if activated, throughout 2016. This capability will be demonstrated as they command the allied forces during the LIVEX portion of the exercise.

For more information, photos and video about Trident Juncture 2015:

Allied Command Transformation:

Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor, she can be reached at

Flyover during Exercise Trident Juncture 15. Photo Simon Newton
Polish F-16 during Exercise Trident Juncture 15.
Tornado on display during Exercise Trident Juncture 15.
Fighters on display during Exercise Trident Juncture 15.
Joint press conference with (left to right) General Philip Breedlove (Supreme Allied Commander Europe), General Petr Pavel (Chairman of the NATO Military Committee), General Claudio Graziano (Chief of Defense, Italy) and General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Commander Transformation). Photo NATO
Trident Junction 2015 infograph. NATO image
NATO AWACS on display during Exercise Trident Juncture 15. Photo Vytas Leskevicius
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