The NCI Agency delivers Nations a gateway into the BMD architecture, but it does not have visibility into Nations' defence networks. Fercala needed to coordinate closely with the Nations to understand how their services were structured to better integrate their services with NATO's.
"The most difficult thing is to understand what is on the national side," Fercala said.
The exercise was conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO on behalf of U.S. 6th Fleet.
The Commander of Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti, thanked the NCI Agency for the outstanding support it provided before and during the exercise. She said the NCI Agency provided an excellent operational communication architecture.
LT Michael McDonald of the 6th Fleet was the exercise's Joint Interface Control Officer.
"This year's performance was far superior to FS-17, with few (if any) trouble tickets being generated," LT McDonald said. "Essentially, the solid performance of the infrastructure during the event is a testament to their efforts before the event."
The scope of support the Agency could offer, and the information exchange requirements for the exercise, were well-defined before Formidable Shield began, LT McDonald said.
"Because it was clearly understood what was (and was not) within the scope of the agreement, I knew what the team could do for me," LT McDonald said.
The Agency built on lessons it learned from supporting exercise Formidable Shield 2017, said Christophe Le Devehat, Test Lead from the contractor team.
For example, the Agency designed, coordinated, integrated and verified architecture views for each Nation. These views specify all the connections required to establish end-to-end communication services between the NATO sites and national units.
Formidable Shield 2019 relied heavily on chat, joint range extension and tactical data link services. Chat is used to coordinate operational procedures. Tactical data links are used to share situational awareness data between the units (such as locations of blue forces, sensor data and engagement status). Joint range extension extends the data shared locally within line-of-sight to all relevant operational sites beyond line-of-sight.
To ensure service support for these products, the NCI Agency prepared in advance a catalogue of points of contact (including subject matter experts) for each Nation and for each relevant service line in the Agency, Le Devehat said.
"Whenever something was happening, an issue in the architecture, we were able to directly contact the relevant expert for efficient troubleshooting," Le Devehat said.
After some issues with chat rooms and connectivity in 2017, the Agency improved the chat architecture and integrated and tested Nations further ahead of the exercise to ensure reliable connectivity.
"Service support of the BMD system is spread in many units in the NCI Agency that are around Europe," said Italian Air Force LTC Riccardo Di Valerio, BMD Service Line Management Section Chief. "Among these units it is necessary to have big coordination. Everybody has to know what the other people are doing, when we have to escalate the incident, problems, and so on."
LTC Di Valerio played a secondary role in the exercise, so he merely extended his working hours during the event to be available if needed. The exercise ran smoothly, LTC Di Valerio said.
"What we verified in this exercise is that the NATO infrastructure that was made available for this exercise was very, very reliable," LTC Di Valerio said. "So there were no incidents that caused delays or postponements."
Overall, Le Devehat described this year's exercise as "well-prepared, coordinated and well-executed."
During the exercise itself, a quick response team also supported LT McDonald on the ground at the BMDOC.
"FS-19 provides a good model for future interactions, and I hope that follow-on events yield like success," LT McDonald said.