NATO’s Biggest ISR Exercise Currently Testing Drones and Satellites

Italian surveillance drone (STRIX) participating in Unified Vision ExerciseUnified Vision 2014 . . . is NATO’s biggest ever trial of Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR), comprising satellites, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, naval vessels, ground sensors and human intelligence from 18 NATO Allies.

Unified Vision 2014 (UV14) is taking place in Norway from 18-28 May and aims to test NATO’s ability to gather information and fuse intelligence from multiple sources – from space, in the air, on land and at sea – at different stages of a crisis. In the scenario, the crisis is initially local and then it gradually escalates into a full-blown international conflict. All the while, very different ISR capabilities are expected to perform in testing situations, stretching their ability to function properly in complex environments.

“This is the most ambitious trial we have ever done, bringing together the largest array of surveillance technology, equipment and personnel over a 10-day period. Instead of conducting our interoperability assessment in a lab, we have created a demanding operational environment to test the ability of our sensors, architecture and procedures to deliver intelligence capable of driving operations in the field. Many of these capabilities will be resident for the 2016 NATO Response Force and will facilitate the Alliance’s ability to quickly react to contingencies”, explained U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Matt Biewer, UV14 Trial Manager.

After the shortfalls observed during the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector in Libya in 2011, improving NATO’s ability to coordinate and deploy Allied ISR capability is crucial. In February 2014, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated,

“Through our operations, including Libya and Afghanistan, we have identified the areas where our capabilities do not go far enough or too few countries have them. Libya revealed shortfalls in precision-guided munitions; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets; and experts trained to interpret the data they provide. Work has been ongoing, but the economic crisis has not made it any easier. So we need to take a long hard look at the most effective way to work together to close those gaps.”

UV14 is testing doctrine, organisation, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and interoperability, with the aim of helping NATO to quickly process, exploit and disseminate information to commanders in action. Assets being used include equipment such as the Predator, Global Hawk, Hunter, Raven, Puma, NATO’s AWACS aircraft, a naval corvette and raccoon reconnaissance vehicles. . . .

A few facts and figures

  • UV14 is being held at Ørland Main Air Station, Norway, where Unified Vision 2012 was also hosted.
  • There are approximately 2000 participants from 18 member countries: Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Australia is also participating as part of the Trial’s Assessment Team, while both Sweden and Finland are contributing observers.
  • Other participants include: Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation Systems (BICES) – providing trial network infrastructure; Combined Federated Battle Laboratories Network (CFBLNet) – providing trial network infrastructure; Multi-Intelligence All-source Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Interoperability Coalition 2 (MAJIIC2) – providing JISR capability packages and JISR Tactics, Techniques and Procedures.

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Image: Italian surveillance drone (STRIX) participating in Unified Vision Exercise (photo: NATO)