NCI Agency puts IT systems to the test in Exercise Trident Jupiter

By Communications Team 12/5/2019
NATO executed in November the first iteration of a large and complex joint command post exercise, Trident Jupiter 2019 (TRJU19), at ten different locations across Europe.

NATO executed in November the first iteration of a large and complex joint command post exercise, Trident Jupiter 2019 (TRJU19), at ten different locations across Europe.

Trident Jupiter is the certification exercise for NATO for the upcoming NATO Response Force (NRF) cycle. The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency played a pivotal role, ensuring that Communication and Information Systems (CIS) used in the exercise were reliable, and providing expertise in areas such as space.

The NCI Agency delivered service support for video teleconferencing, voice, cyber security and services customers identified as required and vital for their task as upcoming NRF standby forces.

"Trident Jupiter is our opportunity to life-test with a high amount of users our IT for NATO Response Force," said Marian Schroeers, the NCI Agency's Officer with Primary Responsibility for this exercise. "Exercises create a very high load on our systems due to the short lifetime and the high battle rhythm."

The exercise enabled the Agency to measure the performance of some of its services, including the RemoteApp Provisioning service, said NCI Agency Engineer Robin Iraca.

“This system provides NATO applications for customers that do not have these installed on their workstations," Iraca said. “Due to valuable input received from the user community, Core Enterprise Services was able to improve server performance for more than 700 users who use the service on a daily basis." 

The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway, directed the exercise, which simulates the challenge of a NRF conducting a collective defence joint operation under Article 5 against a peer state adversary contesting NATO across all domains. The exercise, which concluded on 14 November 2019, is the first iteration of the Trident Jupiter Exercise Campaign.

Testing the Alliance's space procedures

The Agency Joint Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) Service Line supported the space-related elements of Trident Jupiter by sending Space Subject Matter Expert (SME) Flavio Giudice to Stavanger, Norway, and Navigation Warfare SMEs Enrico Casini and Edison Cristofani to the Joint Force Command Brunssum, Netherlands.

Giudice provided expertise on both space systems and NATO processes and procedures, in order to make the operational communities more aware of NATO's uses and dependencies on space systems. Giudice served as the data collection manager, and also managed the system used by the Space community deployed in different venues to store, distribute and exchange data and information.

"Major Joint Exercises like TRJU19 help the space team to test procedures and train space SMEs, especially the augmentees that Nations provide specifically for the exercise," Giudice said. "Additionally, it helps the team to improve the exchange mechanism of data, products and services with the Nations."

Casini and Cristofani provided expertise on Navigation Warfare and modelling tools. Thanks to the use of an NCI Agency-developed prototype software (REACT) they were able to provide estimates of GPS/GNSS jammers' impact over the Joint Operational Area for the benefits of operational planners.

Supporting in Stavanger

To support the exercise, CIS Support Unit (CSU) Stavanger hosted an additional 400 Eurocorps exercise participants, and more than 700 Exercise Control and Response Cell staff.

Eurocorps will control NRF land forces in 2020, and the Exercise Control and Response Cell staff emulated enemy forces and assessed the training audiences. 

The Bulgarian CIS Battalion, part of the NATO Communication and Information Systems Group (NCISG), deployed from Bulgaria to provide the CIS at Stavanger for Eurocorps. They connected the training audience to the NATO Secret backbone.  

For this exercise, the Battalion deployed its major deployable point of presence, the Dragonfly HQ08.

"The Dragonfly HQ08 was deployed by the Bulgarian team at the JWC within 18 working hours," said MAJ Kaloyan Stoyanov, Commander for the Bulgarian CIS Battalion.

CSU Stavanger was responsible for supporting the Exercise Control staff and the JWC.

“This exercise significantly challenged the CSU Staff, as they are responsible for ensuring the reliability of the CIS infrastructure," said CSU Stavanger Commander Tommy Reiestad. "Their skills were essential when firefighting any IT system problems that could influence the execution of the exercise. Again, it reminded us of the importance of having good NCI Agency staff available during high-intensity events like Trident Jupiter exercise."

Embarking the USS Mount Whitney

Another customer supported by the NCI Agency was Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO), which embarked the USS Mount Whitney for the exercise.

"The NCI Agency is a long-known, very reliable partner for STRIKFORNATO," said Commander Juergen Peter, Assistant Chief of Staff J6 for CIS. "With decades of experience built up in former organizations within NATO, the Agency has a huge reputation of IP networking and providing services to different customers."

The US Command 6th Fleet (C6F) funded the NATO Command and Control services presence on the USS Mount Whitney. Preparation and support to TRJU19 was co-funded by C6F and STRIKFORNATO.

The Agency created plans for how STRIKFORNATO would best connect to other training audiences, and defined a baseline for the needed services. The Agency also provided any extra IT equipment needed beyond what was already at the command.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from the Agency also joined the ship during the build-up phase to support setting up and validating the services. Once the exercise began, SMEs on-board were able to immediately respond to any IT challenges.

"This is the highest level of ambition you can train for, and as for C2 and IT, it is by far the most challenging setup," Commander Peter said of Trident Jupiter. "It is very demanding, from the planning, through the build-up, to the execution, and calls for everybody's concentration and commitment."

Commander Peter concluded that the objectives were achieved.

"As IT specialists we are all one team together with NCI Agency, and it is a team effort to enable operations and exercises," Commander Peter said. "The team has again proven its capabilities!"

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