“Wettiner Heide” exercise

Ammunition, fuel and rations – delivered right into the “hot” zone

Ammunition, fuel and rations – delivered right into the “hot” zone

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“8,000 litres of diesel fuel, a good 150 daily rations, drinking water, some smaller spare parts and new antitank mines for our engineers must be moved forward to our troops”, the transport officer from the Netherlands explains. The lieutenant prepares a supply trip right to the forward edge of the battle area. Lithuanian infantry forces establish all-around security during transport. Organising multinational supply is another aspect of the Wettiner Heide exercise.

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Similar to multinational units fighting together as part of VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , military personnel from different NATO states also cooperate in the area of logistics.

Compared to other capabilities of the VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force brigade, the mere size of the multinational combat service support battalion shows the high significance of logistics. 2,000 servicemen and women from five nations stand ready to fulfil their duties in the fields of resupply, maintenance and transport for NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force ). All of these three areas must interact in a precise fashion so as to be able to provide the combat force with whatever the men and women in the front line need. “In a sense, logistics is the driving motor of a battle”, the logistician from the Netherlands says.

Time is of the essence

Several trucks loaded with supply items are driving in the distance across the open heath, whirling up dust.

Logistics, or even the supply of a combat brigade such as VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , is a multi-faceted task. A supply trip with fuel, rations and ammunition is just a small part of it.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
A combat vehicle is standing next to a demountable tank module on the ground and is being refuelled by a soldier.

Thanks to demountable flatracks and tank modules on vehicles, combat vehicles can be supplied with diesel fuel in a completely self-sufficient way.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

The true challenge is timing, the Dutch soldier explains, and goes on to say with a smile that having the right thing available at the right time and in the right place is a set phrase that everybody knows. “But there is so much to it. We have Dutch infantry personnel here, reinforced with Lithuanian soldiers, plus the entire Norwegian battle group, and all of them need ammunition, fuel and rations.” From the planning stage at the command posts over digital request channels to the actual supply trip right into the battle area, as it is about to happen here, it remains a complex procedure – not to forget the transport of supply items to the soldiers fighting in the front line. “Transporting supplies is always a delicate matter. Everything must go right.” Irrespective of whether there are enemy attacks or a truck gets stuck - supplies must reach their destination.

Supply for the front line

A soldier is carrying four teller mines that he picked up from a flatrack on the ground.

It is for a reason that supply is referred to as the driving motor of a battle. Everything the troops need is delivered by the logistic support units. Here, engineers can be seen picking up mines from a flatrack.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
A camouflaged combat vehicle is being refuelled.

It does not matter from where they are – logistics is multinational, too: A Lithuanian Boxer MRAV is being refuelled by a Dutch soldier.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

An endless convoy of heavy trucks makes its way across the dusty heath. Heavy fuel trucks are loaded with thousands of litres of diesel fuel, and four-wheel-drive transport vehicles carry tons of rations, water and mines on their flatracks. Lithuanian infantry personnel escort the convoy. The dust whirled up by the heavy vehicles is visible from a great distance and easily gives away the route of the cargo longed for by the combat troops. As soon as the supply point is reached, everything happens very quickly and according to plan. “Even so far forward in battle, there are no language barriers. We place the flatracks on the ground. Then, things move forward swiftly in two rows, like at a petrol station. After refuelling, we distribute the other supplies and the combat troops are ready for action again”, the visibly proud logistic officer says.

A lot of work in the background

The crane jib of a tank is lifting the engine from a howitzer.

Supply is not limited to fuel and diesel; in fact, it comprises three important subareas: resupply, transport and maintenance. Here, the crane jib of a tank is lifting the powerpack from a howitzer.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
A hovering helicopter picks up an external load.

Supplies can not only be transported on vehicles but also by helicopters as external loads.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

The supply of a combat brigade such as VJTFVery High Readiness Joint Task Force , however, is rather complex and involves so much more than making diesel fuel and ammunition supply trips. Ensuring supply requires an area that is 3,500 times the size of a football pitch. This is the equivalent of approximately 25 square kilometres. In the Wettiner Heide exercise, the supply units are distributed all over Lower Saxony. Common civilian infrastructure such as industrial parks, sports complexes or open areas that lend themselves to logistic use thus become maintenance or transshipment points. The multinational combat service support battalion covers the three major subareas of resupply, transport and maintenance. Each of these areas is highly specialised and calls for very specific preconditions to be met.

More than 2,000 spare parts

A forklift truck with a box on its fork approaches a manoeuvring truck.

Spare parts on wheels: The logistic support units in Burgwedel provide more than 2,200 spare parts. They will be loaded on trucks as and when required.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
In an ambulance tent, a physician is explaining something to some boys and girls.

Medics operate a role 1 facility in Burgwedel. This facility is comparable to an emergency ward of a hospital. The role 1 facility is set up close to a sports field. That is why even the youngest are very interested in it.

Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow

During the Wettiner Heide exercise, Burgwedel, a small town near Hanover with 20,000 inhabitants, is part of these combat supply chains. The distances of up to 60 kilometres to the training areas in Munster and Bergen are realistic and necessary from a tactical point of view in order to create “real-time” supply conditions. For the members of the 2nd Company of the multinational combat service support battalion for example, a biogas plant turns into the supply point of the transshipment platoon. “We have about 2,200 spare parts available here. This includes everything, from a washer to the entire tank powerpack”, the leader of the transshipment platoon describes. Owing to 30 soldiers with handling equipment plus approximately 30 trucks with trailers, the materiel storage site is very mobile. “In a good 20 minutes we could pack up everything and would be ready to move”, the Dutch soldier says. The emergency medics need a bit longer, some 60 minutes, until their mobile aid station, called Role 1, is ready. The mobile aid station Role 1 is designed for general medical and emergency care. State-of-the-art emergency care procedures are applied to treat wounded and seriously ill personnel and to maintain and secure their vital functions. 

Logistics - flexible and highly mobile  

  • A convoy driving on a road enters difficult terrain.

    Driving these heavy vehicles in this terrain poses a challenge for the drivers. Infantry forces additionally secure the convoy. Supply must not come under attack.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
  • Three trucks with flatracks in the terrain

    Such flatrack systems can be used in a very flexible way, for example for ammunition. The flatracks are placed on the ground, where they can remain.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
  • A soldier is handing something down to another one from a truck.

    Logistics is a complex task. The right thing must be in the right place at the right time.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
  • A soldier is handing a cardboard box down to another one from a truck.

    If combat troops receive everything they need in good time, it will motivate them to fulfil their mission.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
  • A truck and a logistic command post in an industrial park

    The supply of a brigade requires space, time and manpower: Logistic units often use civilian infrastructure, for example industrial parks as in this picture. This saves time and makes work easier.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
  • Trucks loaded with pallets are standing on the premises of a civilian biogas plant.

    All of the transshipment platoon’s spare parts are loaded on trucks. If the adversary attacks, the soldiers withdraw very quickly.

    Bundeswehr/Marco Dorow
by René Hinz
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