It was the type of train that used to occur repeatedly within the deepest, darkest depths of the Chilly Warfare with the previous Soviet Union.
In truth, it has been nearly 4 many years since NATO nations practiced as a gaggle the organizational and logistically advanced job of quickly shifting troops and gear throughout a doubtlessly hostile Atlantic Ocean to strengthen Europe.
Over the past two weeks, warships, submarines and plane belonging to the western navy alliance have war-gamed strategies to maintain the ocean strains of communication open within the occasion of hostilities in Europe.
The train, often known as Steadfast Defender 2021, has unfolded in three phases.
The newly reformed U.S. 2nd Fleet, primarily based out of Norfolk, Virginia, was accountable for getting the troops and gear safely between North American and European ports. A lot of the exercise has taken place within the waters off Portugal.
“The Atlantic, for almost all of my profession, has been uncontested area,” mentioned Canadian Rear Admiral Steve Waddell, who led the maritime portion of the train at sea and in addition serves with the People as vice commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet. “Because the finish of the Chilly Warfare, it has been pretty benign by way of free stream of products, commerce and knowledge.”
Due to the resurgence in nice energy competitors in recent times, he mentioned, NATO sees the necessity for its members to be ready to work collectively in an Atlantic theatre that may not be so benign sooner or later.
Simply earlier than the coronavirus pandemic hit in February 2020, the U.S. Navy carried out its personal preliminary coaching train which targeted on organizing a convoy to help Europe within the occasion of an emergency — the primary time since 1986 that such an train had been staged.
The NATO train took that idea to the following stage over the previous two weeks, with 20 ships from 11 nations, together with the Canadian frigate HMCS Halifax. Over 5,000 sailors, marines, aviators and different navy personnel from throughout the alliance took half within the train, the primary section of which concluded on Sunday.
The commanders and their ships ran varied real-time eventualities, together with one which concerned defending towards submarines. That displays NATO’s give attention to defending the Trans-Atlantic fibre optic cables over which a lot of the western world’s commerce strikes.
Defence analysts see these cables as some extent of strategic vulnerability, particularly given the dominance of the digital economic system. Russia’s means to tamper with these cables on the ocean mattress has been a rising supply of concern.
“Right this moment’s surroundings is multi-domain,” mentioned Waddell. “We think about not simply the fast floor of the water and the sub-surface the place submarines function. Now we think about [the domain] to be from seabed to area.”
Among the many different warships participating was Britain’s latest plane provider, HMS Queen Elizabeth, with its complement of F-35B stealth warplanes.
The subsequent section of the train will take a look at NATO’s means to shortly coordinate and transfer disembarked troops and gear throughout Europe. On the similar time, the alliance’s very excessive readiness job power — made up of 4,000 troops and led by Turkey — will deploy to Romania to finish the drill.
The train comes forward of a summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s also going down after Russia’s latest announcement that it’ll completely station a big navy power on its western border and reactivate a long-dormant, Chilly Warfare-era military command to regulate and coordinate these forces.
Though Russia seemingly stored tabs on the train, Waddell mentioned the NATO fleet didn’t have any direct communication with the Russian navy throughout the drill.