• M1A2 Abrams tanks take part in a May 2019 exercise in Poland. U.S. Army officials plan a massive exercise, Defender-Europe early next year. It will be the largest of its kind in 25 years.  Photo Credit: Sgt. Thomas Mort
     M1A2 Abrams tanks take part in a May 2019 exercise in Poland. U.S. Army officials plan a massive exercise, Defender-Europe early next year. It will be the largest of its kind in 25 years. Photo Credit: Sgt. Thomas Mort

Army Exercise To Test Multidomain Operations

October 17, 2019
By George I. Seffers
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Service leaders stress interoperability during Defender-Europe 2020.

Defender-Europe 2020, a massive, first-of-its-kind exercise to take place next spring, will test the Army’s ability to rapidly project power forward, effectively operate with other nations and engage in multidomain operations, service officials revealed at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

The exercise is expected to be the largest deployment for U.S.-based soldiers for a European exercise in 25 years. It will include 17 countries in addition to the United States; 20,000 U.S. soldiers; a total of 37,000 participants; and 20,000 pieces of equipment. It will actually consist of several exercises in the region, including Allied Spirit, Swift Response and a Joint Warfighting Assessment.

Defender-Europe 2020 will be the first of a series of annual Defender exercises, which will alternate between Europe and the Indo-Pacific region.

The exercise will test the Army’s ability to face a near-peer adversary and will be the first time the service practices power projection at the same scale it would likely operate during real-world operations. "We've been practicing this strategy of power projection for about three to four years now into Europe. Now it's time to practice it at scale," said Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, USA, commander, U.S. Army Europe, during a panel session. “It’s time to practice it at scale because scale makes all the difference. It’s when we add up all the all the physical realities that we start to find where we need to improve and what we need to do better.”

The exercise will include five phases, one of which focuses on multidomain operations as part of a division command post exercise that will spread out units across the continent. It will also involve a Joint Warfighting Assessment to test multidomain operations as well as capabilities pursued by Army Futures Command.

“This division command post exercise will be centered in Grafenwoehr but will actually be a distributed command post exercise, thanks to the miracle of modern technology and modern simulation, so we’ll have headquarters really spread all over Europe tied into this command post exercise,” said Brig. Gen. Sean Bernabe, USA, deputy chief of staff, G-3, U.S. Army Europe.

The focus on multidomain operations is necessary because so much has changed in recent years, suggested Lt. Gen. John Thomson, USA, commander, NATO Allied Land Command. “Technology and doctrine have changed. The threats have changed. We’ve got multidomain warfare out there now,” he said, adding that previously the service didn’t need to think about the cyber and space domains.

During a separate address at the conference, Gen. James McConville, USA, Army chief of staff, noted the need for exercises, such as Defender-Europe, for further defining multidomain operations. "We’re refining our understanding of multidomain operations through war games and exercises. We’ll use what we’ve learned to produce updated doctrine for how we’ll fight.”

In addition to multidomain operations, the exercise will test the service’s ability to effectively operate with international allies and partners. “Defender-Europe [presents] extraordinary prospects of working interoperability among all three dimensions—those three dimensions being the human dimension, the technical dimension and procedural dimension,” Gen. Thomson said.

Officials also stressed the importance of the Mission Partner Environment, which simplifies the sharing of data among international partners and allies. Gen. Cavoli indicated the Mission Partner Environment will be the primary operational mission network. “We’ve been investing in it. Some of our allies … are going to be investing in it,” the general said. “We’re migrating all of our operations in U.S. Army Europe to the MPE … so that we can be more accessible to our allies.”

For more information about multidomain operations, attend AFCEA’s MILCOM conference November 12-14 in Norfolk, Virginia, or follow SIGNAL Magazine’s coverage of the event.



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