Text & pictures: Philippe Decock  © sbap 2015

  A real large NATO exercice (Courtesy NATO)


SBAP reporter Philippe Decock had the unique opportunity to witness a part of this major NATO exercice. During two days our reporter followed the flights departing day and night Trapani Air Base in Sicilia. 

NATO’s largest exercise this year, TRIDENT JUNCTURE 15 (TRJE 15), is a computer assisted command post exercise (CAX/CPX) followed by a two-week live exercise (LIVEX).
Directed by German Army Major General Reinhard Wolski, Commander Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), the CAX/CPX portion of the exercise is based on the fictitious training scenario “SOROTAN”, which was developed by JWC in order to set the conditions to achieve all exercise Training Objectives and to help assess NATO’s ability to meet projected operational challenges through 2020.
A political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information (PMESII) framework was used to develop the comprehensive scenario (synthetic environment), which describes a very complex and unstable environment. Rising political instability, ethnic tension and persisting socio-economic challenges are climaxed by a blatant invasion of one state’s territory by another. Ultimately, the crisis leads to a UN-mandated and NATO-led, non-Article V Crisis Response Operation under Chapter VII of the Charter of the UN, in a region far from NATO’s home territory.

SOROTAN sets forth a wide range of conventional and unconventional threats within a whole-of-government context in order to challenge NATO at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of warfare. The lines of effort to protect and defend „Lakuta“ (the weaker state) against „Kamon“ (the highly-adaptive, regional adversary) include:

• High-intensity, joint war fighting
• Countering hybrid warfare threats and other new tactics of war
• Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (TBMD)
• Cyber defence operations
• Chemical, Biological and Radiological Defence expertise and advice
• Addressing violence against the civilian population
• Addressing the protection of children and prevention of gender-based violence
• Addressing humanitarian crises
• Wielding soft power and public diplomacy
• Countering a deceptive and controlled media environment and its effects

SOROTAN will ultimately put the NATO Response Force (NRF) to its largest test ever, enabling NATO to effectively counter contemporary security threats and assess and identify future requirements.
Additionally, this scenario will facilitate the applications of the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI) and the Comprehensive approach to crisis management by bringing together a diverse set of military and civilian organizations in order to plan and conduct all stages of a multinational Crisis Response Operation with the aim of reaching a common effect on the ground.

SOROTAN’s setting and scope
The name SOROTAN is made up of the two words „sør“ (Norwegian for south) and „OTAN“ (French for NATO). The scenario describes a very unstable region, dubbed as „Cerasia“, which is under mounting political, military and civil pressure. The rapidly evolving regional conflict poses complex challenges for NATO and its partners.
The nearly 4,000-page scenario was developed in the spirit of contemporary political science, introducing complex transnational and multi-layered security dimensions of eleven different countries. The catalyst for conflict in the Cerasia region is water, or rather the lack of it. With desertification, dry aquifers, riparian disputes and an ever-diminishing resource, Kamon, the aggressor country in the region, invades southwards in order to seize a key dam in Lakuta and force unwilling parties into water rights negotiations.
As the resource-driven conflict takes hold of Cerasia, the holistic relationship between military and international partners gains paramount importance, highlighting trust and improved cooperation. In addition to this whole-of-government focus, the scenario also includes a hostile information environment that is capable of turning the tide in the conflict, making strong Strategic Communications one of the top exercise Training Objectives.
Overall, SOROTAN is designed with the necessary depth, flexibility and strategic and operationally challenging dilemmas to provide a unique training opportunity to the Training Audience, focusing on stability and Crisis Response Operations in a simulated, austere environment, and, at the same time, incorporating conventional as well as unconventional threats.
About the Joint Warfare Centre: JWC was established on 23 October 2003 in Norway as a subordinate command of Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in the United States. The Centre provides NATO’s training focal point for full spectrum joint operational level warfare.
The Trident Juncture 2015 LIVEX, 21 October to 6 November, contains a series of preplanned and scripted events for use by participating air assets. It provides tactical training for flying squadrons during three daily air waves; one wave each in the mornings and afternoons plus night waves on 21 to 23 and 26 to 29 October, as well as 2 to 4 November.

Participating aircraft:

• 115 fighter aircraft
• 19 transport aircraft
• 9 tanker aircraft
• 36 helicopters
• 3 airborne early warning aircraft (AWACS)
• 2 jamming aircraft
• 2 unmanned aerial systems plus 1 global hawk
• 2 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft

Additional aircraft:

• are assigned to Headquarters Maritime Command e.g. 12 VTOL aircraft
• will participate in portions of the exercise e.g. nine strategic transport aircraft, two strategic bombers and one UAV.

Aircraft are provided by 16 NATO allies and three NATO partners (FIN, SWE and UKR).
Bases used for Trident Juncture 2015 aircraft are:
Zaragoza, Albacete, Palma de Mallorca Getafe, Torrejon, Rota and to a limited extent Moron (ESP); Trapani, Amendola, Pratica di Mare, Cavour, Pisa, Decimomannu and Sigonella (ITA); Beja and to a limited extent Monte Real (PRT).

The Italian Air Force Joint Force Air Component (ITA JFAC), based at Poggio Renatico, is the NATO Force Structure JFAC and Air Component Command (ACC) responsible for the command and control of air assets during the LIVEX. Headquarters Allied Air Command (HQ AIRCOM), at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, will provide augmentation to the ITA JFAC; 15 positions will be filled by the Deployable Air Command and Control Centre (also at Poggio Renatico) and 25 positions will be filled by HQ AIRCOM.
The ACC Exercise Director is the senior officer responsible for the overall direction and control of the air exercise play. He will also approve Air Tasking Order (ATO) change requests arising from, for example, weather conditions, aircraft availability or safety.
The Exercise Director is supported by three Chiefs from the Local Operations Control (LOPSCON) Air, responsible for the Deployment Operating Bases (Beja, Albacete and Trapani) and fine tuning the Air training plan. The coordinated plan is forwarded to the ITA JFAC for preparation of the exercise Air Tasking Order (ATO). LOPSCON Air will direct and control the local Air exercise play, monitor the daily battle rhythm and liaise with the Host Nation. HQ AIRCOM will man some 20 posts each in LOPSCON Air. The Trident Juncture 2015 LIVEX is a joint exercise. Air assets will be used in support of land, maritime and special operations forces; conducting Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Close Air Support (CAS) and troop transport missions. Personnel Recovery and Search and Rescue missions are also scheduled. The Trident Juncture 2015 LIVEX will underline the capability development and interoperability of the Alliance. The Air component will provide highly professional technical enabling solutions for NRF16.

Deployable Command & Control Unit (BARI Palese)

The Deployable Command & Control Unit (Reparto Mobile di Comando e Controllo - R.M.C.C.), located in Bari-Palese Air Force Base, owes its birth to the Air Force’s commitment to increase its operational capabilities in different scenarios, regardless if in or out national borders, through the deployment of a modular, transportable, flexible system, also integrated with other national Services and interoperable with NATO /coalition.
The Unit provides the theatre Commander (also when deployed), through operational and technical components, with the capability to exercise command and control (C2) functions enabling the planning and execution of whole spectrum of air operations, autonomously or in conjunction with other Armed Forces.
In order to perform its mission, the Unit is equipped with mobile systems, to include sheltered operation rooms, satellite communications systems, mobile radars, communication and information systems, radio and tactical data links shelters. In order to grant an high operational readiness, the Unit is provided with autonomous road transport capability to include trucks, cranes and special vehicles. In addition, all shelters can be transported by ship, rail and air.
Nowadays, far beyond the multiple different configurations that the Unit can provide and the wide complex of tasks it could perform, the R.M.C.C. is the integrated in the Italian Joint Force Air Component Command (ITA-JFACC).
During the exercise Trident Juncture, the R.M.C.C. is deployed in Trapani Air Force Base to provide air surveillance and tactical air mission control capabilities with the "D.A.R.S.”,  Deployable Air Control Centre, Recognised Air Picture Production Centre and Sensor Fusion Post.
The D.A.R.S. is an important capability for future National and N.A.T.O. air operations. This unit provides forward and persistent air surveillance. It provides the critical communications link between our various weapons systems and  headquarters. Most importantly, it provides our Joint Force Air Component with situational awareness and the ability to command and control National and air operations from almost any location on very short notice.


(Courtesy Italian Air Force) (Courtesy Italian Air Force)


The Sicilian air base in Trapani.

Trapani is the homebase of 37 Stormo and hosted a whole series of airplanes during the "Trident Juncture 2015". In addition to Italian Eurofighters who are based there, F-16s of the Hellenic Air Force and Polish Air Force where flying from the base. Two NATO Airborne Early Warning Airplanes (AWACS) were also based in Sicily. The NATO E-3A component has one of its Forward Operating Bases (FOB) in Trapani.
The Canadian Air Force supports the exercise with a C-130 tanker operating from the base.
Missions were flown in the afternoon and at night. Each wave was composed of 4 greek F-16s, 4 polish F-16s, 4 AMXs, 4 to 6 Eurofighters and 4 to 6 Tornados (IDS and ECR). Eurofighters were drawn from all italian Eurofighters units.

  The opening ceremony at Trapani Air Base (courtesy NATO)   (Courtesy NATO)
Trapani Air Base (Sicilia)
October 26th, Night missions
Hellenic Air Force F-16C-52-CF & D-52-CF
Italian Air Force Tornado
  Polish Air Force F-16C
Take off of the first wave of the night
   Amazing Typhoon lights
   Preparing the second wave
   Heavy night for the ground personnel
  Time for the debriefing of the mission
Missions are accomplished, night flights are over
October 27th, Day missions
Typhoon (36-35) 36° Stormo - Gioia del Colle Tonado ECR MLU on taxi
Typhoon (4-52) 4° Stormo - Grosseto Typhoon (36-35) 36° stormo - Gioia del Colle
  Tonado ECR MLU (50-01) 50° stormo - Piacenza
   Tonado ECR MLU (50-43) 50° stormo - Piacenza
Tonado ECR MLU
  Tonado ECR MLU (50-45) 50° stormo - Piacenza Polish Air Force support Casa C295M
  Typhoon (37-01) 37° stomo - Trapani
   AMX (51-35)  51° stormo - Istrana
   AMX (51-26)  51° stormo - Istrana
   AMX (51-72)  51° stormo - Istrana
AMX (51-40)  51° stormo - Istrana Line up & take off
51-35 at take off  Back to Poland
Tornado  IDS MLU (6-26)  6° stormo - Ghedi
Tornado  IDS (6-25)  6° stormo - Ghedi
Polish Air Force F-16C-52CF from 32 BLT - Lask Air Force Base
4064 4067
4072 4073
Typhoon (4-41) 4° Stormo - Grosseto Typhoon (37-10) 37° Stormo - Trapani
Holding point Cockpit and BAE Striker II helmet close up
First afternoon wave ongoing...
Greece Air Force:  F-16C-50 (069) 347 Mira - Nea Anchialos Sucking the tarmac moisture
Heavy activity, taxi and take off F-16C-50 (073) 347 Mira - Nea Anchialos
F-16D-50 (081) 347 Mira - Nea Anchialos F-16C-50 (057) 347 Mira - Nea Anchialos
Take off runway 13R
A charter flight from Ryanair between the military activity RCAF Lockheed CC-130H (KC-130H) (130339)
from 435 sqn - 
CFB Winnipeg / Minitoba
NATO Boeing E-3A  was also based at Trapani Air Base during the #TJ15 Refueling
Preparation for the next flight Take off for the next mission
  The Polish F-16's back from mission
End of the day missions
A look at the 37° stormo flight line
A twin-seater version in his shelter
   The 37-30 posing for the photograph
Some details, but no cockpit pictures allowed Close up of the exhaust nozzles
SBAP management would like to thank NATO Public Relations Office for the accreditation to visit Trapani during 
Trident Juncture 2015, Capt Michele Seri from the Public Relations Office of the Aeronautica Militare who did his best to facilitate the job and without whom this report would not have been possible, Capt Cristian Angelillo, 37 Stormo Maintenance Officer and Public Relations Officer who put a twin-seater on display and made the visit of the Eurofighter flight line possible and all the other friendly italian militaries who helped our reporter during his stay in Trapani.

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