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The future of NLD/DEU deep fires capabilities

WHY?

Over the last decades NLD and DEU restructured their armed forces because of the political and geopolitical realities from “warfighting/NATO Art. 5” capable forces to forces with the main focus on “out of area/small joint operations”. This included also the abolishing of deep fires capabilities. It was the time for high precision strikes within a challenging environment.

Since the Russian invasion of Crimea 2014 the lack of deep fires capabilities on divisional and Corps level was obvious. As an outcome of one of the DEU-NLD Army Steering Group (ASG) meetings, Lighthouse Project (LHP) Artillery has been asked to foster the possibilities to create an Arty Command Element which will be able to conduct Arty Fires on Corps level.

1.German/Netherlands Corps (1.GNC) developed at the same time a Corps Troops Concept including a request for a deep fires capability within its command & control (C2) structure. Both nations agreed on using 1.GNC as host for possible experiments, testing and evaluation on this topic and therefore the SWORD exercise series were chosen as an ideal environment for this topic.

HOW?

1.GNC is tasked to conduct its SWORD exercise series in order to (IOT) facilitate national certification exercises and has to display at the same time within its role as professional training platform (PTP) the Corps/LCC responsibility.

Due to COVID and other short falls exercise COUGAR SWORD 22     (EX COSW22) was the first choice for participation. The EX COSW22 was the certification exercise for the MN CBRN TF and for the VJTF 23 which includes more than 10.000 soldiers and more than six nations. In addition a Norwegian brigade (BDE), a Dutch BDE and a German BDE were secondary training audience. The area of responsibility (AOR) was the high north in Norway and the adversary a near peer enemy with a Russian like structure, weapons and laydown.

A team of 18 NLD and DEU soldiers were send to WILDFLECKEN training area IOT display a multinational field artillery headquarter       (MN FAB HQ) and its capabilities. Due to the limited amount of possible personnel this BDE HQ was only displaying an Operations (OPS) and an Intelligence (INTEL) branch plus additional liaison officers (LO) for targeting, planning and INTEL.

In order to support the whole exercise it was agreed to display the MN FAB capabilities also in the computer assisted exercise (CAX) simulation. The MN FAB consisted out of a NLD rocket artillery Bataillon (Bn) with 24 MLRS launchers and a range of 85km (GMLRS) and a DEU rocket arty Bn with 24 launchers with a range of up to 300km (Precision Strike Missile). In addition both Bn were capable of firing Scat Minefields IOT support the MechBDEs. For target acquisition there was a binational ISTAR Bn attached with UAVs and counter battery radar with a range of 300km.

WHAT?

During the EX COSW22 important experiences for the necessary capability and concept development of DEU and NLD rocket artillery were gathered.

DEU/NLD ArtyBde was providing deep strike capabilities in spt of LCC Deep Operations, conducted Counter-Battery Fires (CBF) on LCC-level, and was able to Reinforce/General Support (including Counter-Battery fires) LCCs MSUs’ ArtyBns. With the use of two liaison officers within the Joint Fires Support Coordination Centre (JFSCC) and G3 Current Ops in the JOC, additional artillery expertise was implemented in HQ LCC. The input of the Arty Bde HQ during the planning process of Deep Operations was executed via 1GNC-JFSCC. The planning for the use of sensors was issued via the daily working groups in accordance with G2 LCC. 

One of the biggest issues during the EX COSW22 was the threat for the UAVs displayed by the air defense of the adversary. Most of the time the UAVs couldn’t conduct any missions without being shot down.

Despite the fact that EX COSW 2022 was just a CAX with all the implicit tactical limitations, it indicated that LCC rocket artillery with own sensors can achieve significant effects in LCC’s Deep Operations: Arty Bde neutralized enemy rocket artillery and air defense systems facilitating the maneuver of combat Bdes, army aviation and JFAC. Rocket artillery has shown to be an additional tool, alongside helicopters and aircrafts, in the LCC/Corps’ Deep Operations toolbox, that provides serious added value in today’s warfighting scenarios.

SO WHAT?

Both nations are lacking a decent deep fires asset by capability and by structure. 

In the upcoming future DEU plans to have rocket arty for each MechDiv and for the LCC. IOT to fight and counter possible near peer adversaries the amount of rocket systems have to be increased and the range of the rockets has to extend more than 300km. Furthermore a target acquisition capability is needed which ensures mature target data which makes proper target engagement possible.

But the most important issue is a common understanding of DMP, a reliable C4I structure for communication/coordination/execution, interoperable ammunition/weapon data and all other related topics IOT minimize the challenges on the battlefield within a multi-/ or even just a binational environment. 

NLD and DEU are partners in so many different areas, it’s now time for the artillery to keep the momentum and to speed up.

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