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Interview by Inci Kucukaksoy and Sarah Denieul, NATO Joint Warfare Centre

"The gender perspective should absolutely be part of targeting, cultural analysis, medical estimates, civil preparedness and resilience."

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British Air Force Squadron Leader Diana Bird is a member of the Joint Warfare Centre's Training Advisory Team and has also been the Centre’s Gender Advisor since 2018. In her latter role, she has witnessed the ongoing developments regarding the gender perspective in NATO Armed Forces, especially at the strategic and operational levels. Her feedback: "If we neglect the gender perspective, we are essentially surrendering part of the battlefield to our adversaries."

Squadron Leader Bird, thank you very much for giving us this interview. Can you describe your role as the Gender Advisor at the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC)?

- I am here to ensure that we consider men, women, boys and girls equally in how we deliver our mission. My role is three-fold: to advise the Commander and staff on the integration of the gender perspective in our day-to-day internal JWC business; to ensure that we realistically represent the human environment in our exercises, remembering that men, women, boys and girls all have a voice and role to play in conflicts; and, finally, to help the NATO Alliance to better understand how the gender perspective influences operations through our warfare development work.

What are some of your current activities to promote and integrate the gender perspective in JWC?  

- The Joint Warfare Centre has a great team of gender focal points who I have been working with to look at areas as diverse as the gender balance (and roles) of our Short Term Operational Contractors through to the Centre's behaviour card — our organizational Code of Conduct and Values, providing guidance to both the JWC personnel and those who support our exercises.

What is the advantage of acknowledging and implementing a gender perspective in operations? What could be the implications of disregarding it?

- Everyone in a society is involved both in war and peace. By considering this we can help to minimise the length of conflict and secure a lasting peace. On operations, unintended consequences of our actions, be it a misconstrued comment in a press conference or the targeting of a bridge, are often our undoing. By considering the gender perspective in all phases of planning we can reduce the likelihood of any unintended consequences. From another angle, we can use tools like social media to exploit our opponent's gender perspective (e.g. their perceptions regarding the role of men and women) to win the information war.

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Sqn Ldr Bird with Commander JWC, Rear Admiral Jan C. Kaack

Would you agree that operational-level exercises provide the best venue to integrate UNSCR 1325 and the gender perspective into the NATO Command Structure? How do you see JWC's role in this?

- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 or UNSCR 1325 is a political statement, which has an impact at the operational and tactical levels. As part of a comprehensive approach to warfare, the gender perspective needs to be integrated at all levels of the NATO Command Structure. The operational level is important in translating the political and strategic intent into something actionable, and, similarly, translating the results of actions back into strategic and political language. The Joint Warfare Centre is very experienced in producing a comprehensive environment, where action and inaction equally translate into consequences across the various layers of command.

During the development of exercise scripts, what makes Opposing Forces different from, for example, Information Operations in the way they achieve their Training Objectives?

- The Opposing Forces, or OPFOR, have so much more freedom than NATO does; we are committed to the UNSCR 1325 and are bound by Human Rights Law and Law of Armed Conflict in a way that OPFOR may not be. Similarly, NATO is bound by the collective moral compass of 29 Member Nations and the eyes of the world, which prevent us from "manipulating" the gender perspective as our adversaries do, for example, through fake news reporting.

Although gender is increasingly recognized as a contributor to sustainable peace and security, some still ask "why does gender matter so much?" They claim that gender works better when it is part of an in-depth target audience or cultural analysis. What is your view?

- I think it's a fair question and one with a two-part answer. Firstly, there are a series of resolutions that all our Nations and NATO have committed to. NATO and Nations need to demonstrate that we are committed to abiding by these UNSCRs. Having trained gender advisors is one way to ensure that. Secondly, the gender perspective should absolutely be part of targeting, cultural analysis, medical estimates, civil preparedness and resilience. However, as we see in the vast majority of our exercises, it is usually forgotten by the wider headquarters until the gender advisor pushes for its inclusion. Our potential adversaries; both state and non-state actors, are exploiting the gender perspective within their campaigns — just look at how the use of women by the so-called ISIS evolved during their rise and fall. If we neglect to do this then we are essentially surrendering part of the battlefield to them through apathy, which is inexcusable.

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"The operational level is important in translating the political and strategic intent into something actionable, and, similarly, translating the results of actions back into strategic and political language. The Joint Warfare Centre is very experienced in producing a comprehensive environment, where action and inaction equally translate into consequences across the various layers of command."

Gender is a very wide concept. When we talk about it in NATO, we may refer to the UNSCR 1325 principles for women, men, girls and boys, focusing on sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response, or we may be talking about women in the military, focusing on gender balance and equal opportunities. Ideas of gender around the world, meanwhile, may refer to totally different concepts. Is this a challenge?

- It's a huge challenge which is why I like to divide my work into three sectors: the "internal" part where I look at how we operate as an organization; the "external" part about how we represent the world through our exercises; and, finally, the warfare development piece, considering how NATO can best leverage the gender perspective to gain an operational advantage. Luckily, I am supported by a committed group of gender focal points, who ensure that we can deliver all of this in addition to our primary roles.

You are saying that a holistic overview of gender is important to fully understand the battlespace and diverse human security needs. Is this correct?

- Gender is one of a collection of cross-cutting topics that have evolved over the past five years. Whilst at the political level it is absolutely right to keep these separate, within military operations there is a significant overlap between them. For example, protection of civilians, children and armed conflict, and gender are all different aspects of the same object — a human being. Therefore, several NATO Member Nations consider that what we are actually talking about from a military perspective is human security, and that a commander needs a single advisor/subject matter expert who understands all these concepts and can provide them with advice based on all these factors instead of just one. Looking to future wargaming scenarios, including urbanization and fighting in "mega cities", this will become even more important as civilians will occupy more of the physical and virtual battlespace.

Is it true that the North Atlantic Council (NAC) has recently endorsed a Human Security Unit within the NATO Headquarters? What will it be responsible for?

- Yes, in September 2019, the NAC endorsed the foundation of a Human Security Unit within the Office of Secretary General's Special Representative for Women Peace and Security. Whilst the exact remit is still being worked through, this is a real opportunity to bring topics such as children and armed conflict, gender, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence and the protection of civilians together in a single, unified policy. For the JWC's Training Audiences this will also allow these issues to be considered more holistically and, hopefully, cut down the number of different "voices" commanders are hearing during the decision-making process.

This article was published in the Joint Warfare Centre's "The Three Swords" Magazine, Issue 35.

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By Laura Loflin DuBois, Exercise Planner and TV Producer, Media Simulation Section Joint Warfare Centre

Napoleon Bonaparte has been quoted as saying: “Four hostile newspapers are to be more feared than a thousand bayonets.” Although warfare has since evolved, the effect of news media continues to be a critical consideration for military commanders. With the evolution of online and social media, it has become even more relevant for commanders to reach outside their comfort zones and look up from the map into the information space. NATO’s adversaries have embraced media as a weapon system, and NATO understands the importance of leveraging this critical tool in its arsenal.

As with any weapon system, training prior to deployment is essential. With this in mind, the JWC established its own organic Media Simulation capability in August 2006. With an initial focus on simulating television news during Phase IIIB (the execution phase), the section has evolved to deliver a full-scale media and information environment during JWC’s operational-level exercises, beginning in Phase II (the planning phase) and continuing throughout the exercise lifecycle.

The JWC’s exercise media and information environment includes television news, online news and social media simulation. For television news, World News Today (WNT) is the flagship programme, replicating CNN International and BBC World.

For the Centre’s more complex exercises, the team also produces an adversarial product, which provides a hybrid flavour that appears credible but actually delivers state-controlled messages. Online media includes those hostile newspapers about which Napoleon was concerned, as well as content from local, national, regional and international perspectives, all delivered digitally via NewsWeb, JWC’s news aggregate website. Social media effects are delivered via Chatter and Facepage, which are the JWC’s simulated Twitter and Facebook platforms.

"As with any weapon system, training prior to deployment is essential."

JUNCTURE UK1These platforms bring the exercise to life, but more importantly they provide the media consequences of operational decision-making. Separately, each of these platforms delivers specific effects, but cumulatively, they provide a realistic replication of the media lifecycle. This provides the Training Audience with an advance warning system in which they can effectively plan and prepare engagements to shape the narrative. It also enables the Training Audiences to conduct staff level processes including analysis and assessment to feed boards and working groups, ultimately stimulating the decision-making process.

When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, executing a modernised version of hybrid warfare, the security environment in Europe shifted. In an interview at the JWC following the invasion, NATO’s previous SACEUR, General Philip Breedlove, (Ret.), described the importance of media simulation and the information environment. “Battles will be fought on land, in the air and at sea,” he said. “But the next war will be won in the information battlespace.”
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While hybrid warfare is not new, the way in which adversaries can leverage social media to achieve operational objectives has changed the battlefield. Modern hybrid warfare requires a modern hybrid approach. Whereas previously information effects were used to support operations on the ground, it appeared the adversary could now use operations on the ground to support information effects. NATO needed to be able to train against an adversary with a sophisticated information warfare capability.

With that in mind, JWC’s Media Simulation Section is continuously improving to meet the evolving information environment. Recent introductions of strategic hashtags, the Opposing Force (OPFOR) social media trolls and “bot” activity have proven effective ways to introduce modern information challenges to our Training Audiences, resulting in a more realistic media and information simulation, and ultimately a better-trained headquarters, ready to win on the ground, in the air, at sea and in the information battlespace.

The JWC’s media simulation capability is unique in NATO. With just six full- time NATO civilian staff members, the team supports all of JWC’s operational-level exercises, as well as NATO HQ’s Crisis Management Exercises in Brussels. In addition to delivering TV, online and social media simulation, the team also provides one-on-one, on-camera media training to NATO commanders and senior staff and was unofficially dubbed “NATO’s Centre of Excellence for Media Simulation and Training” by the previous SACT, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, (Ret.).

Since its inception, the JWC media team has supported more than 60 major exercises, mission rehearsals and other training events from Norway to Afghanistan, and dozens of countries in between.

Originally published in Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book, "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018" produced by the Public Affairs Office

By Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Sébastien Dorne, French Air Force, Subject Matter Expert CIS Cyberspace, Joint Warfare Centre

We live in a digital world in perpetual evolution where communication and information systems (CIS) are everywhere: at home, at work, on us, even in us. “Cyberspace” can be defined as the global domain created by CIS and other electronic systems, their interaction and the information that is stored, processed or transmitted in these systems. State administrations, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, companies and people are quickly accelerating their use and dependence on an increasing number of technologies and data. They are all operating in/making use of cyberspace.

In modern warfare, computers, networks, satellites, and other forms of CIS are playing a key role for NATO headquarters to command and control, monitor, target and communicate. In its operations and missions, NATO CIS are more than ever critical, enabling all processes and actions in the maritime, air, land, space and cyber domains. They constitute a critical asset to accomplish the mission. But this applies as well to all weapon systems and platforms, such as aircraft, ships and tanks. This applies by extension to all objects contained in cyberspace and used by NATO. NATO has for long established strong protections for its assets and networks. They are now considered globally and constitute the common ground of cyber warfare.

Cyber warfare, with the expansion of new technologies and the threats posed to NATO by multiple state or non-state actors, organizations and even individuals, is one area in which the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) places great focus. The integration of cyber defence as a new NATO capability in joint level exercises began in STEADFAST JUNCTURE 2011, but its development as a transformational warfare area has continued to dynamically evolve through as the cyber landscape changes and the threats, risks, and vulnerabilities morph. Cyber defence is now moving to cyberspace operations. In addition, the development of related concepts, and the maturing of the cyber DOTMLPFI (Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities, Interoperability) strands will require continued experimentation, doctrinal development and adaptation.

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"The need for more interoperability and more realistic storylines reflecting real-world threats offer many opportunities for JWC to improve the training experience for all joint headquarters."

At the Warsaw Summit 2016, cyberspace was recognized by NATO and Allies as a domain of operations. The consequences have been significant for cyber warfare. It potentially affects, to various degrees, all activities conducted by JWC today: the planning of joint-level exercises, the development of scenarios and content (the stories made up in support of the training), simulation, media, transformational activities, doctrine development; there are very few areas that may not be impacted by this change. JWC, through a comprehensive approach, is ideally placed to integrate those changes.

Over time, cyberspace operations have become pivotal to support other activities, functions and processes. The confidentiality, the integrity and the availability (CIA) of data are more than ever to be assured in Alliance operations and missions. As for any actor in cyberspace, NATO needs to carry on its missions and trust its information in a complex, continuously evolving threat environment, in a highly contested cyberspace.

JWC incorporates these challenges in its activities with a view to offering the best training experience possible to the training audiences, and in order to contribute effectively to transformational activities and doctrine development. To that end, cyber warfare is a coordinated and synchronized effort among all JWC divisions to offer a credible and challenging contested environment mirroring real-life realities and offering to the joint commanders’ situations where they face operational dilemmas.

With the rapid evolution of cyber warfare in the last couple of years, NATO strives to adapt and transform at the same pace. The creation of the Cyber Operations Centre in SHAPE (CyOC), the development of new capabilities, the need to train with realistic cyber ranges and the necessary cooperation between Allies and NATO, or NATO and EU, have created new challenges. The need for more interoperability and more realistic storylines reflecting real-world threats offer many opportunities for JWC to improve the training experience for all joint headquarters. It will keep NATO’s joint training events up to speed with regard to cyber warfare. With a long-lasting experience in joint operational training, doctrine development and transformational activities, JWC is the ideal tool to support NATO in the evolution and adaptation to the rapidly changing cyber warfare.

By Colonel Jean-Michel Millet, French Army, Head Transformation Delivery Division, Joint Warfare Centre

To successfully prevail in wars and conflicts, it is imperative to understand the historical context and evolution of the operational environment. Additionally, new threats observed in recent conflicts (such as hybrid and cyber), as well as the re-emergence of peer-to-peer adversaries, cause our security environment to steadily grow more complex and require focused warfare development thinking.

Although warfare development has no officially agreed definition, a NATO working definition might include: "warfare development represents the synthesis of operational-level analysis, lessons identified through observation and coaching of exercises, doctrinal and technological developments, and capability integration and experimentation in all domains to ensure the Alliance remains relevant in current and future operational environments."
 
If warfare development is increasingly necessary, it is also difficult and fraught with risk. The cumulative effects of globalization, near instantaneous information flow, the acceleration of technological development, and the merging relationship between man and machine combine to create a new and permanently changing security environment. This fluid environment blurs clear, legal delineation between peace, crisis, and war. 
 
"Decision-makers and defence analysts understand the importance of warfare development in maintaining the edge of an alliance system against different threats and potential adversaries." 
 
More than 50 years ago, General André Beaufre predicted an era of "increased variability" when "shaping would take over execution". 
 
Using a metaphor to describe this era and the importance of investing in warfare development and rigorous prospective analysis, he compared the analysts of that era to a surgeon who would "operate on a patient in a state of permanent and rapid growth, with no clear understanding of the anatomical topography, on a moving operating table, and with instruments ordered at least five years in advance."
 
Decision-makers and defence analysts understand the importance of warfare development in maintaining the edge of an alliance system against different threats and potential adversaries. Yet, military history is full of examples of failure to assess trends in developing concepts, technology and defence systems. 
 
Warfare development is about managing change in organizations, doctrine, and equipment. Change is inherently difficult. Even with positive intent, a myriad of elements can create roadblocks leading to friction in the change process, such as the lack of resources, interoperability, and parochial interests. The technological, economic, and psychological aspects of collective defence can unduly influence expectations. The fallacy of a "silver bullet" tends to be ever more present as swift changes in technology increase the risk of misjudging the progression of a technological evolution, which can result in overconfident nations and alliances and/or investment in technologies that rapidly become obsolete.
 
However, sound warfare development is not so much about fielding new technology as it is about ensuring a new concept and/or capability is consistently integrated across the doctrine, organization, training, leadership development, materiel, personnel, and facilities (DOTLMPF) spectrum. 
 
Integration remains a difficult task for a national defence system, as the different factors involved rarely conform to the same constraints, budgeting cycles, and chains of command.
 
As an example, the equipment procurement cycle rarely matches the defence human resources cycle. The highly political nature of national defence decisions adds to the difficulty of maintaining consistency in the implementation of change. Administrations change hands and new political powers with different agendas or areas of interest can alter or derail warfare development execution. This leads to the obvious conclusion that what is true for individual nations represents an even more daunting task for an Alliance such as NATO, the strength of which depends on interoperability, but where capability and decision cycles can vary greatly from nation to nation.
 
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The implementation of warfare development changes across different domains can prove risky in three fundamental ways: (1) the risk of overlooking necessary change; (2) the risk of overestimating change; (3) the risk of misunderstanding the ever-evolving nature of warfare.
 
As we contemplate the future, maintaining freedom of action in the Space and Cyber domains, retaining the lead in the development of man/machine interface, the exploitation of Artificial Intelligence advances, and new methods to achieve superiority in the information environment represent areas with an extreme risk to overlook critical change. 
 
Conversely, the risk of exaggerating benefits from change, failure to understand the context and applicability of change, and underestimation of contributing factors to war poses an equally dangerous threat to the consistency of defence concepts. Therefore, the goal of decisively "lifting the fog of war" through technological superiority of Western militaries largely ignored the fundamental nature of the conflicts that have been prosecuted over the last two decades.
 
Furthermore, the basic evolutionary nature of warfare represents the primary obstacle to warfare development as modeled by Edward Luttwak: "In war, one deals with an opponent who reacts. War is most emphatically not like building a bridge over a treacherous river. Dangerous as that latter enterprise might be, a river does not consciously devise novel means to wash away abutments, drown construction workers, and generally thwart the engineer."
 
Given the difficulties and risks previously mentioned, warfare development might appear an exercise in futility or wishful thinking at the Alliance level. However, ensuring that warfare development optimizes deliberate and pragmatic approaches has proven its value.
 
"Success in warfare development requires a pragmatic approach to achieve measurable results. The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) represents a unique asset to create, analyze, and implement warfare development products."
 
A symbiotic relationship exists between exercises and warfare development. Large-scale strategic/operational-level exercises enable the Alliance and participating Nations to evaluate new concepts. Additionally, these same exercises provide a mechanism to test the integration and interoperability of technology and organizational changes in the face of the most likely and most dangerous threats.
 
Exercises also represent a unique way to infuse new mindsets, organizations and concepts into headquarters and forces, without the need for real-world combat operations.
 
Fostering the symbiotic relationship between training exercises and warfare development requires a deliberate effort to resource an organization with the unique capability of creating a suitable training environment, such as the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway.
 
Successful warfare development integration rests upon balancing doctrinal analysis, concept experimentation, and close support from NATO Command and Force Structures. That integration relies upon three requirements. 
 
First, it supposes a firm grasp of current doctrine and best practices, which serves as the baseline for assessing any future development. From one headquarters to next, efforts to ensure standardization and interoperability through the mastery of doctrine and best practices are eroded by personnel turn-over, frequent reorganization, and shifting primary duties. However, the frequency and consistency of exercises mitigate this erosion.
 
Second, warfare development requires a suitable mindset across the entire chain of command, similar to that of an explorer, accepting, and at times, even welcoming failure as a means of discovery. This can often create tension because of the heavy emphasis placed on validating the readiness of headquarters and subordinate units. 
 
Finally, there is a need to tailor warfare development expectations to the needs and characteristics of a given Training Audience. Experimentation has its own biases and proves difficult at times to separate objective results of 
experimentation and subjective factors related to the operational environment and the audience participation in the experiment.
 
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Exercises provide the ideal venue to translate warfare development items into reality. They provide a series of realistic challenges and the opportunity to experiment without the risks associated with real-world combat, as exemplified in the Command Post Exercise (CPX) portion of TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018.
 
The significant level of ambition associated with this exercise and the commitment of diverse Training Audiences enabled an in-depth study of the challenges posed by Joint Campaign Synchronization across the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
 
In the same vein, Space support challenges were successfully studied through experimentation that enabled the Space domain to reach a sufficient level of maturity to become a discipline in its own right, while sensitizing the Training Audience to the importance of maintaining freedom of action in that operational domain.
 
As the Alliance is planning increasingly higher levels of ambition over the next series of Command Post Exercises with the TRIDENT JUPITER Series, the relevance of warfare development products depends heavily on the ability to create a "controlled" environment for warfare development efforts.
 
This requires the early and deliberate integration of prospective experiments with a clear view of intended purpose, which is necessary to ensure all stakeholders are sensitized to the "learning organization" process involved in a major exercise.
 
In turn, if one considers that warfare development is an essential element of major training exercises, this requires the clarification and strengthening of the role of JWC Training Team, focused on creating the required conditions for testing and integrating new capabilities in the NATO Command and Force Structures, in close coordination with the Training Audiences.
 
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Conclusion
 
In an era of increased variability, warfare development is a major goal for the Alliance and directly affects the ability of NATO to optimize change and successfully face current and future threats.
 
Understanding the challenges, risks, and opportunities offered by warfare development across different domains will continue to represent a necessary condition as the Alliance adapts. Specifically, this adaptation relies on the use of sufficient resources, coherent structures, and adequate processes during major exercises.
 
The Joint Warfare Centre is a single organization that engages every NATO Command and Force Structure headquarters and unit throughout NATO. No greater tool e xists to ensure consistency and interoperability across the Alliance. It provides the venue to administer and implement NATO Warfare Development as well as experiment with future concepts.
 
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This is an abridged version of the original article published in Joint Warfare Centre's The Three Swords Magazine, Issue 34. The full article can be read here
 
 

By Lieutenant Colonel Michael Derksen, German Army, Head of the Scenario Branch, Joint Warfare Centre

The JWC Scenario Branch provides comprehensive and realistic scenario background and supporting documentation to the JWC-directed exercises, tailored to meet both NATO and National requirements, covering the Alliance 360° geographically. The mission of the branch is to support Allied Command Transformation (ACT), one of the two Strategic Commands at the head of NATO's Military Command Structure, in delivering training and exercise programmes to the Alliance. This is accomplished through designing and developing realistic, high-level exercise scenarios, such as SKOLKAN and OCCASUS, based on NATO’s current and future approaches to the changing, complex strategic environment.

The scenarios designed and developed by the JWC provide a credible, fictitious political, military, socio-economic, infrastructure, information and geospatial environment as well as the encompassing narrative on the political, strategic and operational levels of warfare to strengthen readiness and responsiveness and practice crisis management — one of NATO's fundamental security tasks. The narratives are relevant to the particular operational-level exercise programme, as each exercise is based upon a specific scenario. Scenario support is one of the cornerstones of the JWC’s mission portfolio, funded through a multi-million NOK annual budget within the Centre’s overall financial plan, involving contracting solutions, as most of the required non-military resources have to be acquired commercially on a regular basis.

The scope of these scenarios allows for exercises in both Article 5 collective defence and non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations mode on various levels of effort, from divisional up to multi-corps, and in all domains of the joint spectrum — Land, Sea, Air — as well as the recently added Space and Cyber dimensions. Within this broad spectrum, and in addition to the conventional spectrum of warfare, the JWC scenarios can also accommodate a wide range of modern warfare threads, such as anti-access/area denial (A2/AD); chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN); civil-military interaction, cyber defence, hybrid warfare, state- and non-state actor sponsored terrorism, etc.

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Before each exercise, military and civilian subject matter experts, in a wide variety of areas, develop the information and documentation needed to support the Training Audience with the advice and content to replicate key actors and entities during the execution phase. Focus teams for military-political, strategic and operational planning, intelligence, targeting, and geospatial development assist in channeling the information flow in order to create a realistic information environment as the source for the Training Audience’s knowledge development. As a whole, scenario support is coordinated by a small team of scenario managers who provide the interface to other critical elements and branches of the JWC’s overall exercise programme.

Scenario Branch’s first generation of settings and scenarios include two settings, which form the basis for four related scenarios. A setting, in this context, is defined as the geostrategic situation of the respective crisis region and includes a broad spectrum of relevant information on all potential exercise actors. Each setting is capable of "hosting" several scenarios, each of which describes events and circumstances that lead to the respective exercise crisis or conflict. The SKOLKAN setting, for example, is named after a fictitious but peer-level adversary located in Scandinavia, whose activities range from hybrid through low-intensity, up to full-scale, high-intensity combat campaigns. Since 2010, the JWC has developed different versions of the SKOLKAN scenario which was first used in 2012. They challenge NATO’s operational level commands in both collective defence operations of Norway and the Baltic region as well as in responding to a non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operation occurring in a fictitious state in southern Scandinavia. As an example, during TRIDENT JAVELIN 2017, SKOLKAN 3 provided the scenario for NATO’s so far largest and most ambitious computer-aided Command Post Exercise during which over 4,000 participants and directing staff exercised command and control in a large-scale conflict spreading from Iceland through the North-Atlantic and Norway to the Baltic States.

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The SOROTAN setting, meanwhile, addresses NATO’s capability to conduct operations not only within or adjacent to its territory, but also in austere, conflict and peace-building regions of the world. To enable the required training and exercises in reflection of this ambition, a wide array of fictitious states has been created within the geographic contours of North-Western Africa and the Mediterranean. SOROTAN portrays a combination of state and non-state actors that openly oppose NATO, or states that have failed, or are in the process of dissolving, and states seeking NATO’s assistance. Tailored to the specific requirements of the Training Audience, these elements were combined into SOROTAN 1.0, the first scenario based on this setting, which came to life during the high-visibility, non-Article 5 exercise, TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015.

Scenario Branch’s next generation of settings and scenarios are designed in response to NATO’s so-called 360° approach to current and future challenges. Until 2024, JWC’s Scenario Branch will develop three major settings in and around Northern and Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic.

The OCCASUS setting, for example, assumes a synthetic geostrategic situation in which a fictitious peer-level opponent challenges NATO on a broad front of political, military, information and economic storylines. Geographically, this setting will host multiple scenarios in an arc from the North Atlantic to the Black Sea, allowing the exercising of single, regionally limited scenarios, or a combination of scenarios, adding up to a conflict across and around all of Europe. The scenarios will focus primarily on the operational aspects and level of collective defence operations during all stages of a potential campaign, but they will also support training on the strategic and political levels of the Alliance. OCCASUS scenarios are currently planned to be used in exercises TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018, as well as TRIDENT JUPITER 2019, 2021 and 2022.

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In addition, the FIKSO setting will specifically reflect NATO’s approach to strategic challenges from the south, geographically ranging from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea. In an approach similar to OCCASUS, the FIKSO setting will include a range of various "hot-spots" that can be combined into scenarios, as required, by the Training Audience. The FIKSO setting will concentrate on non-Article 5 operations and will include specific types of operations, such as counter-terrorism, disaster relief and peace support. FIKSO scenarios are currently planned to be used in exercises TRIDENT JUPITER 2020 and 2023.

Lastly, the North-Atlantic setting will complete the 360° circle of NATO’s approach to current and future challenges. The geographic extent of the North-Atlantic setting encompasses the Atlantic Ocean between the United States of America, North-West Africa and Europe. So far, specific parameters and requirements for the design of the setting, which will be exercised for the first time in 2024, are still being developed.

In summary, by 2024, the JWC’s Scenario Branch will have developed and delivered complex, well-structured and synthetic environments, consisting of both existing NATO and non-NATO actors and of fictitious state and non-state actors that cover most of NATO’s area of responsibility. Within this environment, the variety and design of challenging "problem sets" and the ability to combine them to create a multitude of different scenarios is critical to the flexible tailoring of Major Level Exercises in accordance with existing and emerging requirements. As a key facilitator in this, the JWC’s Scenario Branch continues to follow closely geostrategic developments and prognoses in order to allow NATO to exercise not recent, but future conflicts.

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Originally published in Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book, "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018" produced by the Public Affairs Office