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06 9 2020

NATO exercise proceeds remotely during COVID-19 and tests health tracking

NATO is innovating so that the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Exercise (CWIX) 2020 can take place this year from 8 to 25 June 2020, despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

This year 19 Nations plan to participate in the exercise, and two additional Nations will be observing. The exercise, which is focused on testing and improving interoperability, will test about 160 capabilities, including two that are particularly relevant in the context of COVID-19.

NATO exercise proceeds remotely during COVID-19 and tests health tracking

Many aspects of CWIX 2020 are being done for the first time. These include planning the event virtually, and testing the applications virtually from the Nations themselves, instead of coming together in one central location. The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency is working hand in hand with Allied Command Transformation and the Joint Force Training Centre to plan the event. The Agency is also providing subject matter experts who will be conducting capability testing.

"CWIX thrives in innovation, and that is what has made it possible under these circumstances: the ability to adapt quickly to challenging situations like these using innovative solutions," said Miroslav Michev, the NCI Agency lead for exercise planning. "We are carrying CWIX despite COVID 19, serving NATO's purpose, while having the security of our staff as a first priority."

Three conference rooms in the Agency's new facilities in The Hague, Netherlands, have been repurposed for the exercise. This will allow Agency experts to participate while social distancing.

The exercise will include online opening and closing ceremonies.

"When NATO Nations and Partners work together in a mission or exercise, one of the keys to success is interoperability," said Alberto Perez-Veiga, Service Delivery Manager for Command and Control Services at the NCI Agency. "CWIX brings together every year hundreds of experts from across the coalition to ensure that different technologies, processes and personnel can work together in an effective manner."

A key enabler in this exercise is the Combined Federated Battle Labs Network (CFBLNet). The network is used for research, development, trials, assessment, exercise and pre-deployment training. Established in 2001, it has currently 37 members and it has been for years the backbone of the testing activities on a classified level during CWIX.

CWIX participants will connect to the network from their own countries. NCI Agency will connect from The Hague and Bydgoszcz, Poland, to deliver the necessary services, as well as several NATO capabilities being tested during the exercise.

The exercise will test about 160 capabilities, including the three below.

  • NATO Medical Communication and Information Capability – This year CWIX is testing the prototypes for NATO's Medical Communication and Information Capability, which is more relevant than ever before given the ongoing pandemic. In scope this year are the capability's ability to track patients, plan and manage medical evacuations (MEDEVAC) and monitor disease spread and severity through syndromic surveillance. Syndromic surveillance within NATO allows the Alliance to become aware as early as possible of the emergence of a disease outbreak that requires public health action. This is achieved by monitoring the incidence of patients with the same combination of symptoms and signs. This year, several Nations are also experimenting with exchanging electronic health records with one another. The aim is to eventually exchange medical data from the point of injury all the way up to more specialized treatment in a "Role 4" medical facility (usually outside where an operation is taking place), using standardized messages in a secure manner. Ultimately, the goal of the exercise is to ensure that Allied commanders can respond quickly and effectively to different medical scenarios.

  • Data-centric Information Services Gateway (DISG) – To work together on Alliance missions, Nations need a way to exchange information among different security domains. Remote working has greatly enhanced this need, and provided a challenge in balancing security with a real need to exchange information quickly. The gateway provides a way control, protect and share information, demonstrating NATO's ability to keep up with the challenge to exchange information in a secure way.

  • NATO Core Data Framework (NCDF) – This year's CWIX keeps testing capabilities that enable effective and interoperable communications. Decision makers are currently hampered by multiple layers of interoperability issues – from systems not being able to exchange data on a message format level all the way to different interpretations of similar looking data across communities of interest. The framework cuts across existing communities of interest and data stovepipes to enable better interoperability in the NATO enterprise, the Alliance and Coalitions with Partners.