NATO forces were deployed to the fictitious country of “Fairyland” to put logistic systems, equipment and procedures to the test in what was the Alliance’s largest-ever logistics exercise. Held in Slovakia from 8 to 26 June, Capable Logistician 2013 involved NATO member and partner countries in a simulated crisis involving inter-ethnic conflict and floods of refugees.
The violent conflict between “Westalia” and neighbouring “Eastalia” had driven hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people from their homes. In the village of Riečky, drinking water was running short and supplies were needed immediately.
“We are producing over 100,000 litres of water each day,” said Lt Col Brad Eungard of the United States Army, in charge of the US personnel for fuel and water. "Each nation has connected its respective system to make one larger water production system. The Netherlands have drilled two water wells. France together with Germany have purified the water which will be trucked immediately via Dutch convoy to the refugees and the UN forces.”
Exercise Capable Logistician 2013 involved all areas of logistics, with a key focus on the production, purification and distribution of water, fuel handling and munitions storage and distribution – these areas are vital for the success of an operation in theatre. Logistics form the backbone of any military operation. In today's security environment, the need for more mobile forces and multinational operations calls for improved coordination and the pooling of resources.
“Capable Logistician 2013 is the largest event of its kind in the last two decades,” said Col Miroslav Pelikán, Director of the Prague-based Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre (MLCC). “Some 1,750 troops and 600 pieces of equipment from 35 countries are involved in the exercise. Fourteen international organisations and agencies are also present, including military personnel of the European Union. In addition, nine NATO partner countries are represented – Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland and Ukraine,” added Pelikán.
The MLCC organised the exercise in cooperation with the host nation Slovakia. It was established in January 2011 following a decision taken by Allies at the 2008 Riga Summit to develop multinational logistics solutions.
Testing interoperability and connectivity
The exercise provided an opportunity for NATO member and partner countries to test and develop collective logistics solutions and to assess the interoperability of their equipment, systems and procedures. Logisticians will now be able to make recommendations to improve the overall interoperability of coalition forces.
“Standards, common procedures and compatible equipment are key to interoperability,” said Pelikán. “Without interoperability, there is no effective cooperation in logistics, and that can have an impact on the sustainability of a mission and the effectiveness of forces in combat, particularly in the case of out-of-area operations.”
Towards “NATO Forces 2020”
After the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan comes to an end in 2014, it will be important to maintain and further develop the ability of the NATO armed forces to work together.
At the 2012 Chicago Summit, the Alliance set itself a goal of developing “NATO Forces 2020” – modern, interconnected forces that are suitably equipped, trained, exercised and commanded, able to work together and with partners in any conceivable environment.
“The exercise is a clear illustration of this goal and of the two initiatives arising from it: Connected Forces – forces which are more effective thanks to better training, enhanced interoperability and exercises involving Allies and partners – and Smart Defence, which focuses on improving the way NATO develops and acquires its defence capabilities, achieving economies of scale,” said Pelikán.
Putting Smart Defence projects into practice
The Alliance has launched multinational projects in the areas of water, fuel and munitions in the framework of its Smart Defence initiative to help Allies to acquire and maintain jointly critical logistics capabilities.
“The MLCC is coordinating four multinational Smart Defence projects,” explained Pelikán. “The exercise is an opportunity to test these projects and put them into practice in the current context of the redeployment of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and, of course, in the light of the budget cuts which we are all faced with."
One such project in the area of munitions is the focus of a multinational integrated logistics unit composed of experts from Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Serbia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. During the exercise, they tested and assessed the security and procedures involved in munitions handling, the interoperability of different nations’ munitions transportation equipment and handling equipment, and common criteria for munitions storage.
Logistics – a collective responsibility
Until very recently, the provision of logistic support to NATO operations was considered to be a national responsibility. As the Alliance has enlarged and national forces have been reduced due to the diminishing conventional threat and worldwide economic pressure, NATO is increasingly searching for more effective means of supporting NATO forces with multinational solutions.