Trident Juncture 2018 was a NATO-led high-visibility exercise held in Norway in the autumn of 2018. This was set to be and has been the largest military exercise in Norway since the 1980s. For almost 70 years, the core principle of collective defence has been at the very heart of NATOs mission. It remains a enduring principle that binds it's member states together in a unique manner, committing to them to protect one another and setting unparalleled a spirit of solidarity.
Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson said "NATO is the bedrock of our defence where Britain plays a leading role. Whenever the call comes, the UK is foremost in stepping up to support our friends and allies across the globe... This exercise demonstrates the strength of our collective defence. Together we are ready to tackle any threat, from any direction."
Exercise Trident Juncture included 31 nations, 29 NATO member states and two allied partners, Sweden and Finland. In total 50,000 personnel were deployed, 65 ships, 250 aircraft and 10,000 vehicles. Britains contribution included HMS Cattistock, a Hunt-Class mine countermeasure vessel, HMS Enterprise, an Echo-class survey ship and two Type 23's HMS Westminster and HMS Northumberland. The 50,000 personnel is broken down into the following:
- 20,000 Land personnel
- 24,000 Navy personnel (including United States Marines)
- 3,500 Air personnel
- 1,000 Logistics specialists
- 1,300 personnel from various NATO commands.
The exercise area covered a large proportion of central Norway and the Norwegian Sea. The field exercises span a large air, sea and land area. Land forces exercised in the areas south of Trondheim and north of Oslo, maritime forces operated in the Norwegian Sea along the coast and reaching as far south as northern Scotland. Maritime forces also conducted exercises in Skagerrak and the Baltic Sea, south of Sweden, and east of Denmark. Air forces operated in the skies above central Norway, as well as elements of central Sweden and north-western Finland.
Exercise Trident Junction, 2018 (shortened to TRJE18) aimed to test NATO's ability to coordinate a major collective defence operation against an equally powerful foe. From training at the tactical level to commands over large multinational forces in tough terrain the exercise has been seen to have achieved its aims.
The incumbent Supreme Allied Command Transformation (SACT or ACT) Denis Mercier said "NATO needs to hold exercises on a large scale. Only this way are we able to test all the levels in the alliance: from the troops on the ground and all the way up to the strategic level."
Mark Lancaster, the current Minister for Armed Forces said: "whether it's from the seas, the skies or land, exercise Trident Juncture will demonstrate the crucial contribution our armed forces make to NATO - an alliance which is the cornerstone of European security and stability in an increasingly unpredictable era."
Trident Juncture has acted as a playground for the member states of NATO and two allied partners to test out multi-national brigades in offensive and defensive operations in a relatively unique environment. The ability to practise and develop the total defence concept as laid out in an Article V scenario has benefited NATO on a tactical and operational level. The large-scale field exercises at sea, on land and in the air have proven invaluable for testing the inoperability and cooperation with allied forces during a high-intensity operation.
UK personnel from all 3 branches of the military have returned from Exercise Trident Juncture as victors after successfully defeating an acting enemy force consisting of the combined forces of Norway, Germany and Sweden. The victors included the Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Lancashire Regiment, Danish tank units and Polish armoured vehicles. The exercise allowed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive operations in harsh and austere environments. Operations included the disruption of enemy advances and offensives to regain land previously lost, including a large-scale river crossing.
All in all, the exercise has been an interesting test of NATOs capabilities in an environment much more challenging than what would be faced in France and Germany. The combination of forces has allowed commanders and those of the lower ranks to gain invaluable experience while operating alongside their allies. I can only assume, that regardless of the many standardization agreements, different approaches clashed and ultimately merged to work together.