NEWS FROM ITEC: Scandinavian Exercise Showed Need for More Training Interoperability

By Stew Magnuson
Exercise Northern Wind 19

Photo: Defense Dept.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — A five nation deep-snow exercise that took place in April across the northern part of Scandinavia showed both the importance of allied nations training together and the increasing importance of brigades in modern warfare, the leader of the Swedish army said May 14.

Northern Wind 19 pitted two full brigade-sized teams against each other with U.S. Marines joining British and Norwegian forces who were facing off against members of the Swedish and Finnish armies. The former team was the aggressor and the latter the defender. Sweden hosted the first-of-its-kind exercise.

Chief of the Swedish Army Maj. Gen. Karl L E Englebrektson said normally one brigade among the three Scandinavian countries would visit another for bilateral training. About two-and-a-half years ago, the three chiefs of the Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish armies decided to do a combined exercise using live forces and simulations. It turned out to be a 10-day, 24/7 non-scripted force-on-force exercise, he added.

One of the main lessons learned was the need for more interoperability, he said at the ITEC conference in Stockholm, Sweden, co-sponsored by the National Training and Simulation Association.

“When we are training and exercising combined-arms levels in an international context, we need to have interoperability, not only in the forces, but the simulations supporting the operations,” said Englebrektson.

There were about 6,000 simulators used in the exercise, he said. It was conducted in the Swedish countryside extending 300 kilometers west of the Finnish border, and most of it took place in the snow. “The enemy also is the climate,” he noted.

The exercise came with some risks, and tragically one Swedish soldier was killed in a vehicle accident, he said.

Englebrektson had a message for the training and simulation industry: “It is not good if we put 10,000 people to do operations and we cannot join them up with simulators by design. It doesn’t really matter who provides the kit as long as it’s interoperable from the lasers on weapons level up through the radios, antennas, into the software ... where we can do the evaluation,” he said.

The Swedish air force participated, but he would have liked to simulate what they provided, he added. Artillery is also difficult to simulate in a realistic manner, Englebrektson noted.

“You can shoot too much if you don't put the logistics in place,” he said. For example, when operating in deep snow, forces have to have someone plow the roads before materiel is delivered. The support for the attack is not there if they don’t have ammunition, he added.

Simulators also have to help commanders quickly ingest the data and help them draw conclusions, Englebrektson said. “It’s not efficient to train thousands of troops and then only have umpires walking around making notes.” Participants in combined and joint exercises need to draw some conclusions from the data so they don’t start at the same place in the next exercise — as is the normal practice, he said.

“We need to look at the conclusions drawn and see where we need to focus next time,” he said. That should happen not three weeks later, but by the time the commander delivers his closing remarks at the end of the exercise, he added.

Meanwhile, Englebrektson said Western armies are “getting back to the future” by organizing bigger, but more efficient units. “I think organizations will come to the conclusion that the brigade level is relevant,” he said.

Whatever size unit an army emphasizes, they will have to bring in all elements of combined arms to be efficient, he said. “Because if one piece of the puzzle is out, that’s where the enemy will focus.”

Topics: International, Global Defense Market

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