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12 10 2020

Tech Agency connects participants for NATO exercise

Steadfast Jupiter-Jackal 2020, NATO's largest command post exercise this year, successfully concluded on 10 December 2020.

The 10-day exercise trained and evaluated the NATO Response Force's command and control headquarters for 2021. The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency provided the systems and services needed to command and control the NATO Response Force in 2021, including the mission network. Thanks to thorough planning with an option for remote participation, Agency experts were able to deliver the network successfully during COVID-19 restrictions.

Tech Agency connects participants for NATO exercise

"Steadfast Jupiter-Jackal is a critical training opportunity and the NCI Agency is proud to support it. Our experts carefully planned in-person and remote options to ensure this exercise was a success this year, whatever way it would be conducted," said MAJ Hannes Chang, an NCI Agency Project Manager for the exercise.

Steadfast Jupiter-Jackal was an opportunity to exercise planning and executing a non-Article 5 crisis response operation at a regional scale. In such a scenario, the NATO forces responding must be ready and able to communicate and work together.

This training exercise was directed by the Joint Warfare Centre (JWC), supported by the Agency's Communications and Information Systems Support Unit in Stavanger.

"The ability of NCI Agency to react to the constraints of COVID and support this valuable training has enabled the certification of NATO Forces for 2021 in these challenging circumstances," said WG CDR John Watson, the JWC lead for the exercise.

Agency experts developed a backup plan of using remote network modules to support exercise Steadfast Cobalt during COVID restrictions. After they were developed for use in Steadfast Cobalt, they were left in place as a contingency for this exercise. Due to the COVID situation, the backup plan became the necessary means of communication to be able to connect participants from different locations.

The NCI Agency's Network Operations Centre also changed the way it would support the exercise, from partial on-site support in Naples, Italy, to complete remote support in Mons, Belgium, to respect health and safety requirements.

"The NATO Response Force must be ready to conduct NATO operations beginning in 1 January 2021 and this exercise took place just one month before. Our experts took into consideration the systems that would be needed after the exercise while planning to execute Steadfast Jupiter-Jackal," said LTC Marian Schroeers, the NCI Agency Project Manager for the exercise.

The exercise also made use of the Mission Information Room (MIR), a substantial IT infrastructure that functions as a day-zero Communications and Information Systems (CIS) capability for the NATO Response Force. With a purposely build software-as-a-service feature, the MIR allows NATO users to access their mission data at the early planning phases from the comfort of their own office. The NCI Agency rapidly upgraded the MIR over the summer in capacity and capabilities to meet the operational demands of the forces.

"The demand for the Mission Information Room has grown significantly from when the concept was first conceived. During the NATO Response Force planning cycles, it became apparent that a significant CIS upgrade was needed in less than 6 months. With a combined effort from across the Agency, we rose to the challenge with even a month to spare," said Berend Seegers, Operations and Exercises Section Head, in Core Enterprise Services at the NCI Agency.