Spearhead has taken shape
Until early June the word ‘spearhead’, which was having a real career in the media, was mostly a slogan waiting to be filled with content. The content was filled by the “Noble Jump” exercise conducted on June 9-18.
June of this year, in terms of military training activities, has been a special month. More than 5.5 thousand NATO soldiers is simultaneously practicing on the military training grounds all over Poland. It is the largest number since the beginning of our presence in the Alliance. The main training projects are being held under the common code name “Allied Shield”. One of them was the “Noble Jump” exercise – the most outstanding and perhaps the most important one of all the conducted exercises.
Test for the VJTF
Subdivisions from nine countries, including Poland, exercised on the military training areas in Świętoszów and Żagań. The main purpose of the exercise was to check the NATO Response Force’s readiness to allot the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), the so-called spearhead. It was the first practical test of the Alliance’s readiness in this regard since the political decision to create them, which took place during the NATO summit in Wales, in September of last year.
The VJTF forces were formed on the basis of the 1 German-Netherlands Corps, and the mainly subordinate to it Dutch 11 Air Mobile Brigade, supported by subdivisions from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Germany, Norway, Poland, Hungary, the United States. The spearhead forces of more than 2,000 soldiers had to its disposition nearly 500 equipment units, including heavy equipment such as Polish and Norwegian leopards, Belgian and Polish F-16 multipurpose aircratfs, Mi-17, Mi-24 and Black Hawk helicopters, artillery, as well as tracked and wheeled armored personnel carriers.
The first stage of the exercise was to shift all the forces to Poland, to the area of the military training areas in Żagań and Świętoszów. The transfer was carried out through railway and road transport, but also by air. The first group of soldiers landed at the airport in Babimost near Zielona Góra on June 9, and all forces arrived in Poland by June 13, which was just within 96 hours. It was one of the elements of VJTF testing, of which specific components had to perform this task in certain – impassable – time regime.
Poland played a very important role in this part, being in the position of the Host Nation. Although that is the way it always is when the allies are practicing on our soil, this time the activity was evaluated. Similar to all of the VJTF forces we were also assessed not just in terms of being able to accommodate such number of forces, but most of all in terms of being able to perform this task in a specific amount of time, also whether we were able to create such conditions that would allow the military to take actions almost in stride. We managed to organize everything correctly and after a short period of coordinating of subdivisions and preparing of equipment the exercise moved to its fundamental phase.
The motto of the 1 German-Netherlands Corps presently commanding, over the 11 Air Mobile Brigade amongst others, is the Latin sentence communitate valemus, which means: together we are strong. That is precisely what the VJTF forces actions looked like during the dynamic phase of the exercise, which took part between 15 and 18 June. Soldiers from nine nations, under common command and without division into national components, for four days conducted tactical actions, thus carrying out various elements of the scenario. Both special forces soldiers performing point impacts, as well as tank drivers and mechanized forces soldiers supported by Polish and Belgian air force, perfected their skills. Helicopters and F-16 planes were flying over the training grounds, on which leopards, CV-90 type vehicles, Marder and Boxers were moving around.
The tasks that were provided for the so-called spearhead, were a reflection of possible threats existing in current environment of international security. That is why they practiced both capturing a terrorist group, as well as heavy equipment operations allowing to repel the enemy attack, who attacked its neighbor. The assumptions did not elude to any real geopolitical situation, but they allowed to practice potentially possible scenarios.
The most important goal was to test the NATO’s ability to perform quick displacement of forces located in various parts of Europe in such a way to have them ready for action in the shortest time possible.
Smooth integration of national forces and performing a wide spectrum of task by them was part of the value of this exercise. The speed of action and reaching established goals turned out to be the most important. It turned out that the Alliance can really, when needs be, undertake the defense of its territory in a very short amount of time. It is an important confirmation of NATO’s foundations, which is solidarity and collective defense.
The “Noble Jump” exercise proved that the Alliance systematically implements decisions made at the political level, on the military ground. Both the VJTF forces and the popular expression “spearhead” gained content. It became evident that they have a reflection in a specific structure and they have real military potential. The final test, which was the action of all the forces on June 18, showed that there are no problems in communication nor any other obstacles that could prevent formation of a multinational structure equivalent to a brigade, that is ready to perform any task, in just a few dozen hours.
Detailed conclusions will be worked by both the 1 Corps command and specific countries. There surely are still some elements that can be conducted in a better and more efficient way. But it is already visible that the idea to create the so-called spearhead was not an empty declaration. The soldiers – real professionals – no matter the flag on their uniform, demonstrated that they know their craft, they speak one language, and they know how to turn political declarations and ideas into real tactical operations. This is what modern NATO looks like and what could be seen at the military training areas in Żagań and Świętoszów.