Huge NATO exercise reveals problems

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The first of 10,000 military vehicles arrived in Norway over the weekend, all of which will be taking part in NATO’s huge “Trident Juncture” exercise later this autumn. The exercise will also involve more than 40,000 soldiers from 31 countries, but technical communications problems have meant that not everything has been going quite as planned.

The first equipment that will be used in NATO’s huge military exercise in Norway this autumn rolled off a ship in Åndalsnes in the county of Møre og Romsdal on Saturday. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Torbjørn Kjosvold

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that Norway’s military command and NATO have run into logistical problems. Vessels and special military units reportedly on their way to Norway have not shown up on the dates specified.

The problems have been rooted in the computer system that’s supposed to automatically send information regarding transport and troop movements between Norway’s defense operations headquarters (Forsvarets operative hovedkvarter, FOH) at Reitan outside of Bodø in Northern Norway and NATO.

“Norway’s defense department has another version of this computer system than (NATO’s) central operation in Naples,” Major Brynjar Stordal told Aftenposten. “These versions haven’t communicated with each other, so we’ve had to check everything manually, and manually move data from one system to another, which is cumbersome.”

‘Absurd’
Stordal admitted it could seem “absurd” that the military has been lacking an overview of the ships and material being sent to Norway for such a major exercise, aimed at defending a NATO member like Norway. “The positive aspect is that the problems have been exposed and they can be solved,” he told Aftenposten. “Things are going better now, and we feel certain that this will be worked out before the actual exercise begins (in October).”

The computer communications problems reportedly have created considerable concern at NATO’s command for Southern Europe in Naples and at NATO’s Allied Maritime Component Command Heaquarters in Norfolk, England. NATO’s command in Brussels has also been informed, according to internal correspondence between the Norwegian military and NATO to which Aftenposten gained access. Stordal added, though, that “this is exactly the point with an exercise such as this, to reveal errors when systems are put under pressure.” He said all the computer systems will now be updated.

The biggest worry has been that various NATO equipment and troops would arrive in Norway with no one there to received them. Stordal stressed that hasn’t happened yet, and an Italian division from NATO’s rapid response force arrived at Åndalsnes on Saturday with personnel from Norway’s Heimevernet (Home Guard) there to receive all involved.

“Our soldiers are responsible for troop protection and to make sure that all vehicles, material and other equipment gets to its destination,” Jon Arvid Svindland, chief of the local Heimvernet division, told the defense department’s own website on Saturday. It’s also responsible for communication between the military and civilian units.

‘Good cooperation’ locally
“Cooperation locally is very good,” added Svindland. “We’ve been working on this for more than two years, and we’ve already learned so much about total defense in practice, and it works.”

More and more military units will be arriving at various ports in central and southern Norway, including Borg outside Fredrikstad, over the next several weeks. The thousands of soldiers, vehicles, aircraft and vessels coming to Norway will be operating in seven Norwegian counties including Nordland, Trøndelag, Møre og Romsdal, Oppland, Hedmark, Akershus, and Østfold.

Warnings and reminders of the upcoming Triden Juncture exercise are being published regularly in Norwegian media, not least concerning the potential civilian traffic disruptions that will occur on local roads and highways because of all the military convoys that will be driving around. Norway’s police and highway department (Statens Vegvesen) are working closely with the military to coordinate the troop and equipment movements once they land on Norwegian soil.  The major portion of the Trident Juncture exercise itself, which will involve all 29 NATO member countries plus Sweden and Finland, runs from October 25 to November 7.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund