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Trident Juncture Exercise Will Test NATO’s Ability to Repel Invasion of an Ally

Marines with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 18.1 prepare to bound across a road during a live-fire range at Giskas, Norway, Aug. 21, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo

THE PENTAGON – The upcoming Trident Juncture 2018 exercise will be the first opportunity to test out the premise of NATO’s new “Four Thirties” initiative – the idea that NATO may need to move a lot of people and platforms quickly to defend an ally whose sovereignty has been violated – the head of naval forces in Europe said today.

Adm. James Foggo, who heads all U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa and commands the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, said today that there are still details to work out surrounding Four Thirties, but that “we’re exercising it in spirit in Trident Juncture.”

Four Thirties is the idea that NATO should have 30 ships, 30 squadrons of aircraft and 30 combat battalions that could be ready to fight within 30 days, an initiative that Defense Secretary James Mattis pushed at the July NATO Summit.

Trident Juncture, which starts later this month, will seek to move and support 45,000 personnel, 60 ships, 120 aircraft and 10,000 ground vehicles in a simulated defense of Norway against an invading adversary.

“We’re really testing our response to an Article 5 (defense of an ally under the NATO treaty), our ability to move rapidly – the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force will move into Norway to provide Article 5 defense. And, even more importantly, we’re testing our ability to conduct operations in the 6th domain of warfare, and that is logistics, which is so important – when you have 45,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and all their kit, you’ve got to get there. So that’s several lifts of aircraft, several [roll-on/roll-off ships] or sealift ships that are coming in,” he said while speaking at an Atlantic Council event in the morning.

Without mentioning Russia by name, Foggo said, “we’re going to move all this kit quickly up into Norway, and I think that has a sobering deterrent effect on any adversary that might choose to cross a line and try to take a territory.”

Later in the day, speaking to reporters in the Pentagon, Foggo again reiterated the importance of demonstrating the ability to move and support such a large force.

“We’re going to test several different things, but probably most importantly is – as much fun as we’re going to have on the ground doing the training that Marines and soldiers and sailors and airmen like to do to get their kit out, to operate their equipment, to work with their allies and partners – this is a logistics exercise. I call it the sixth domain of warfare. 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,” he said.
“We do this well in the United States joint force, we have something called a … Time Phased Force [Deployment]. NATO is developing this same capability to move quickly, and that is a good thing because it’s recognized as something we’re going to have to do. In order to deter, you have to be present. In order to be present, you’ve got to be there – you’ve got to be there, and you’ve got to be there quickly.”

Foggo said the Marines currently have about 700 Marines operating out of Norway, an increase from the 300 Marines that were originally sent to conduct cold-weather training there. The admiral recalled a press event with Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green, when the 300 Marines first showed up in Norway. Someone asked what good such a small force could do, and Green replied, “that’s 300 Marines today. 3,000 Marines tomorrow,” according to Foggo. Foggo added that the U.S. joint force is good at quickly surging troops and gear to a fight, and NATO is trying to emulate that capability through exercises like Trident Juncture and through its embrace of the Four Thirties idea.

Foggo said at the Atlantic Council that many details still had to be worked out – including basics such as, what kinds of ships should make up the 30 that are ready to fight? He noted the importance of variety: the ships should include combatants but also specialty ships, such as mine countermeasures ships, that have niche capabilities a larger response force may rely on. He also highlighted the need for sufficient intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to enable the movement of ships and planes into battle.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    In other words Putin’s war lords invade Northern Europe and NATO responds?

    Good.

  • Duane

    This is very good. The ability of NATO to redirect and concentrate its large but dispersed military forces and assets quickly in the face of a Russian incursion is the very best way to discourage such incursions, or to defeat them if attempted.

    Russia does not possess anywhere near the military forces.of NATO, but as the aggressor they have the ability to pick their point of attack and concentrate their forces. NATO, as the defenders, cannot permanently stage enough forces and assets along the entire Russian border to fend off any attack, so the key is to be able to quickly move to respond.
    .
    Think of this like the late stages of World War Two, in November 1944. The Allies on the western front were concentrated in the north (the Brits) and south (US), and were very thin in the center along the Ardenne Forest, which the Allies mistakenly thought was too difficult for the Germans to try and break through. The Germans figured out exactly where the Allies were weak, so they concentrated virtually all of their remaining forces, especially tanks and mobile artillery, and busted through the Ardenne in the Battle of the Bulge. Their intent was to overwhelm the allies in the Ardenne, then swing up to the northwest to take Antwerp and deprive the allies of seaborne logistical support.

    What ultimately defeated the German offensive was the ability of Patton’s Third Army to mobilize virtually overnight and rapidly move north to engage the Germans at Bastogne. Eventually the Germans ran out of gas, literally, and were defeated. The weather also finally cleared, allowing Allied air superiority to wreak havoc on German forces.

    Replicating what Patton did in 1944-45 is precisely the point of these exercises. The Russians may penetrate for quite a distance in the Baltics, but their supply lines will grow long and thin, and the ability of NATO forces to reconcentrate and hit the Russians would likely cause a rapid collapse of the Russian incursion.

    And the Russians know it.

  • E1 Kabong

    Remind me how Desert Storm turned out?

    • Ed L

      You guys need to stop thinking a Few well place Brigades can stop a few hundred thousand Russians, 5,000 plus tanks, 15,000 plus AFV’s. Those numbers are less than a 1/4 of the current Russian Army. According to Periodicals available to the general public. How many tanks do we have in Europe? 100? 200? Last time I heard it was considered sucide to pit an airborne brigade against armor units

  • E1 Kabong

    Meanwhile, when was the last time Russia won a war?

    How’d Afghanistan turn out?
    Chechnya?

  • RobM1981

    Four 30’s is a good idea.

    Just don’t mention how many SSN’s are screening the formation. Keep the “un-named adversary” guessing…

  • Ed L

    I was over there Gulf in 80 and 81 and again for shield and storm. We got very lucky that Saddam acted so stupid. I just left the barracks a few hours early before the scud hit. Thank You for your polite inquiry

  • Ed L

    I really dislike people who keep there profiles private. Especially when they are rude and Demand answers without doing any research. Unfortunately after filing a complaint it was recommended that I block that individual with the lock profile. So bye e1 kabong Sincerely (ESWS) USN Retired.

  • Ed L

    See my profile I served from summer of 1972 (Vietnam era) (Cold War ) to summer of 1993. Served 4 ships and 2 tours on staff duty Started out as a Boatswain Mate then Switch to intelligence specialist. Last posting was at USCINCLANT. I am 65 years young completely retired. Go to the YMCA every other day. Light weights and then in the pool for 25 to 30 minutes swimming laps. A little kick boxing too. And in my spare time work on my sailboat and go sailing. My profile is open. Your profile is lock. Your move young man.