Sharpened by the past decade of combat operations, NATO forces are launching an ambitious effort to build on that foundation and to enhance the capabilities of the NATO Response Force, the top U.S. and NATO commander reported.
After more than 10 years of experience fighting together in Afghanistan, we have achieved an unprecedented level of cohesiveness among allies and partners,î Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, said in his new blog posting.
We are operating as a seamless integrated team right now, and we aim to maintain this level of cohesion by intensifying our education, training and exercises across the air, land and sea domains, he said.
Breedlove, who presided at Aug. 2 ceremonies during which Air Force Gen. Frank Gorenc assumed command of Allied Air Command, U.S. Air Forces Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa, as well as directorship of the Joint Air Power Competence Center, called air power a key pillar of NATOís deterrence.
Several upcoming exercises will take the integration demonstrated during Operation Unified Protector in Libya to the next level, with a goal of ensuring the units and Headquarters Air Command are prepared to assume the NATO Response Force mission in 2014, Breedlove reported.
The first of them, Exercise Brilliant Arrow, will kick off later this month in central Norway. Forty fighter aircraft, two airborne early warning platforms and about 800 participants will face a tough, realistic scenario that includes air defense units on the ground, he said.
Breedlove emphasized the importance of ensuring that air power remains ready and capable despite current economic uncertainties. This will be critical, he said, to prepare for the future security environment that will require NATOís airpower to adapt to the speed and unpredictability of strategic and technological developments.
The general also underscored the continued importance of NATOís airborne early warning and surveillance and air policing missions and their peacetime role in preserving the integrity of NATO European airspace and safeguarding NATO nations from air attacks.
But airpower is just one part of the NATO team. We must also train hard on the land and the sea, Breedlove said.
Exercise Brilliant Mariner, to begin in late September, will focus on training and certifying the readiness of maritime forces for their NATO Response Force rotation, he reported.
On land, Special Forces are preparing for the Exercise Brilliant Sword in Italy in October. The following month, several alliance nations, including the Baltic states and Poland, will participate in Exercise Steadfast Jazz. That exercise will bring together air, land, maritime and Special Forces components, as well as the headquarters staff from Joint Force Command Brunssum, which will lead NATO joint operations next year.
Breedlove emphasized the importance of exercises to NATO readiness.
My aim is to make sure that our NRF deployable headquarters and troops are ready to deal with any situation in any environment,î he said. ìThe NRF and associated training is essential in maintaining and enhancing the ability of forces from across the alliance to work together.
That, Breedlove emphasized, will be increasingly important as our mission in Afghanistan winds down and we prepare to meet future challenges.