VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023

'Wettiner Heide': Nine Nations – One Battle Group

'Wettiner Heide': Nine Nations – One Battle Group

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"All nations contribute specific capabilities,” Brigadier General Alexander Krone says. He is the commander of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ) 2023 and is also responsible for the command of 'Wettiner Heide', which is one of the largest NATO manoeuvres preparing troops for the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , NATO’s rapid response force. The exercise taking place in Lower Saxony in early May involves 7,500 servicemen and women and more than 2,000 vehicles.

Infographic with national flags, figures and capabilities

Nine nations take part in the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , each contributing their own capabilities. Not all troops listed here were involved in the 'Wettiner Heide' exercise.

Bundeswehr/Jessica Schlag

“Never before have we brought together elements of the battle group on such a large scale,” Krone explains. He goes on to say that for multinational cooperation to work, procedures and processes must be coordinated and adapted where necessary. “But what is even more important is a common understanding of the mission – something that can only be achieved by means of a field training exercise,” Krone adds. The 3,500-strong German element is reinforced by troops from the Benelux countries, Norway, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. This adds up to a total of nearly 8,000 troops participating in the 'Wettiner Heide' exercise.

Multinational All the Way to the Top

Three high-ranking service members stand behind a tank and talk to each other.

The highest command echelon of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Brigade is shaped by cooperation between Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
Two tanks stand on an asphalt forest path providing security.

A Combat Vehicle 90 (CV90) and a main battle tank from Norway provide security for the reception of additional forces.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

The aim of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force is to provide national and collective defence. It guides all our actions, and every single capability – be it national or multinational – is focused on this aim. The purposeful interaction with allies is not only evident in the structures of the units. “The composition of the Brigade command also clearly shows that the activities of NATO partners are closely interlinked,” Krone explains. The trinational framework group is led by Germany and reinforced by the Netherlands and Norway. According to Krone, the integration of his deputy commander and other high-ranking officers at this very high level of command is an enormous advantage. The 'Wettiner Heide' exercise, however, does more than just optimise command and control processes. The enemy is real.

The Traditional Red vs. Blue

A soldier with a light antitank weapon on his shoulder crouches in front and slightly to the side of a tank.

In this exercise, the enemy is real. Combat units face each other in a typical national and collective defence scenario. An antitank weapon operator moves into position in front of a MARDER infantry fighting vehicle.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
One soldier shoulders a surface-to-air-missile while another looks through his binoculars.

Dutch infantrymen use the STINGER man-portable air defence system. It can engage aerial targets between the ground and an altitude of slightly more than 3 km.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

Combat is the core of the exercise, which is a typical field training exercise with two sides facing each other. It goes far beyond the scope of previous exercises. The zones of action cover the training areas Munster North/South and Bergen. German infantry forces encounter Dutch infantry forces of 42nd and 15th Mechanized Battalion equipped with main battle tanks and the Norwegian Telemark Battalion. “It feels very realistic. The area is huge and the enemy is really out there,” a Dutch antitank team leader describes the scenario. According to him, there is a high risk that the armoured infantry forces with their MARDER IFVs coming from the north cross the Dutch/Norwegian security line.

Emplacing Minefields Before Using Artillery

A soldier in the prone position uses his rifle to provide security for minefield laying.

Dutch engineers try to slow down or, better still, stop the enemy by using minefields.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
Two soldiers provide security for minefield laying from their vehicle.

When tactics succeed: If the enemy is brought to a halt at the barrier, friendly artillery forces will be able to destroy him.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

“Our barriers cause the enemy to lose momentum,” the Dutch engineers say. They force the attacker to regroup and change his tactics using wire obstacles and minefields. “Our goal is to canalise enemy forces into a direction where they are forced to stop and where friendly artillery can destroy them,” the section leader explains. VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force combat units use soldiers from up to five nations for artillery fire missions alone.

The 'Wettiner Heide' exercise combines many aspects of training. Forces engaged in a direct one-on-one situation are equipped with laser systems for fast hit assessment. Forces providing long-range fire support, i. e. artillery, use real live ammunition. Another important aspect is dealt with in a realistic manner and is the actual focus of this exercise: Very large parts of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Brigade train outside the training area.

No Combat without Logistics

A helicopter on a field receives ammunition and fuel.

Logistic support must never be underestimated. Without ammunition, fuel and rations, combat grinds to a halt.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
A tank sits on a heavy equipment transporter, a soldier loosens the lashing.

Combat support, for example the transport of heavy equipment such as a tank, as seen here, is an important part of the 'Wettiner Heide' exercise.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

The multinational combat service support battalion is very large and includes 2,000 military personnel from five nations. Supply and logistics as well as combat service support in its entirety are absolute priorities of the exercise. One of the key questions is how multinational units must be set up in order to not only be able to fight together, but also to keep combat going for many days. "Logistics and supply chains are simulated as realistically as possible. How long does it really take for ammunition or fuel to arrive at the very front of the combat unit?" Krone points out the essence of the exercise.

Ready for VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force 2023

Soldiers stand next to each other on a square with flags, two other soldiers present certificates to them.

In an official ceremony, soldiers are being presented with NATO certificates on behalf of their units. The certification of capabilities shows that cooperation at NATO level is working.

Bundeswehr/Andre Klimke
Soldiers stand in dense smoke, firing a field howitzer from which a projectile is expelled with more smoke.

Belgian artillery soldiers with their light 105-mm field howitzer are also part of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Brigade.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

The 'Wettiner Heide' full-strength exercise combines the 'Stolzer Wettiner' and 'Wettiner Schwert' exercises and finalises the operational readiness of the units and capabilities of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force . With this certification, the soldiers have proven that they fulfil their mission as full-fledged NATO partners and that they are able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their partners in combat. Towards the end of the year, the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force certification process will be completed with the 'Cougar Sword' exercise, as part of which the command post, i. e. the command and control of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force Brigade, will be certified. During the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force year 2023, the response time for the entire brigade will then be between two and seven days. For this purpose, the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force target strength will increase to up to 12,000 troops.

by René Hinz
Collective defence

Army forces with advanced basic capabilities for special operations

In 2023, 37 Armoured Infantry Brigade is part of NATO's rapid response force known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ).