***image1***The NATO Interim Deployable Combined Air Operations Center at Ramstein, deployed NATO servicemembers for the first time in support of a large-scale live-flying exercise held in central Europe June 27 to July 8.
The center, or IDCAOC, deployed 167 members, from 10 NATO nations and several organizations, to Soesterberg Air Base, Netherlands, in support of exercise Clean Hunter 2005.
“This is the first time we’ve deployed the IDCAOC on this magnitude to support a live-flying exercise,” said Doug Steer, IDCAOC assistant project officer. “The deployment was a necessary ‘walk before you run’ approach for NATO Response Force capability, which will be tested in 2006.”
The NATO exercise, conducted by the Allied Air Component Command Headquarters Ramstein, was designed to promote training opportunities, maximize interaction between opposing forces and train five combined air operations centers in the planning of coordinated live-air operations.
The Ramstein center, which will be permanent in 2009, is made of flying, logistics, computer, information, legal and engineering experts. The center draws these experts from a core team of 39 men, with significant augmentation from Ramstein’s 32nd Air Operations Group and 1st Combat Communications Squadron, and the Combined Air Operations Center 2 in Kalkar, Germany, and the French CAOC in Taverny, France.
During the exercise, the center’s chief task was to translate air campaign strategy into a daily written plan, called an air tasking order, that lists aircraft call signs, weapons loads, radio frequencies, take off times, refueling points, target coordinates and other special instructions.
“Historically, NATO CAOCs did not deploy men and equipment to support missions that occur outside of member-nation borders,” said Maj. Bob Brust, IDCAOC operations coordinator. “But in the post-Cold War strategic environment, focus has shifted to out-of-area operations. The aim of the exercise is to be able to say we can deploy on short notice to any location to plan and lead an air campaign in support of an NRF operation.”
The deployment planning phase, conducted from September 2004 to June, included five site survey visits to Soesterberg with a team of 20 personnel. The planning phase determined the communication, computer and life support requirements to sustain 158 members for three weeks, and orchestrate an air campaign of 200 aircraft.
“The computer and communication requirements were significant,” said Lt. Col. Bonnie Burckel, IDCAOC communication and information system officer. “We made sure we knew every piece of comm equipment we needed months in advance. If you find out after you deploy that you can’t talk to fighters flying in the (United Kingdom) because you forgot some comm equipment, it could mean mission failure.”
The air campaign involved aircraft from air forces in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Exercise areas extended from southern Germany to Denmark and from the United Kingdom to mid-Poland with participating nations flying from their home bases. The missions included Dutch F-16 and Polish MiG-29 fighter patrols, British Jaguar and German Tornado ground-attack missions, American KC-135 air-refueling sorties and A-10 close air support strikes.
“NATO’s future depends on its member nations regularly exercising together in order to identify their limitations – or to put positively, improving NATO’s command, control and communication relationship,” said Maj. Edwin Ballast, IDCAOC logistics officer.
Next year, CC-Air Ramstein must demonstrate its NRF mission readiness, with the ability to deploy men and equipment with five to 30 days notice, and meet a real-world contingency.
“A challenging task that is more easily said than done,” said Capt. Dick Middleton, IDCAOC director “The future of NATO is the NRF – a rapid, deployable taskforce of airpower, not to mention land and sea power, to accomplish NATO missions. Clean Hunter 05 and the IDCAOC’s deployment was a critical preparation for NATO’s future – a future that includes protecting shared interest and keeping alliance security.”