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TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2018: NATO’s Largest Exercise since 2002

All 29 member states of NATO – + Finland & Sweden – to conduct Trident Juncture 2018


All 29 member states of the Atlantic Alliance – plus Finland and Sweden – will conduct NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2018 (TRJE 18) in Norway from 25 October-7 November. The original plan was for about 45,000 soldiers, more than 10,000 vehicles, 60 ships and 150 aircraft to participate but Adm. James Foggo USN, Commander of Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, told media in a 9 October briefing at NATO headquarters in Brussels that the US will also deploy the USS HARRY S TRUMAN aircraft carrier to the exercise. This will increase the number of participants to over 50,000 and, according to the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr), make TRJE 18 the largest NATO exercise since 2002.

Adm. Foggo, who is responsible for conducting the large-scale exercise, stressed its relevance. and unity. “NATO is a defensive alliance. Trident Juncture demonstrates our incredible capability. Together, we deter any potential adversary,” he commented, telling reporters the exercise fundamentally tests the ‘three Ds’ – defence, demonstrate, deter – under realistic conditions. 

Lt.Gen. Rune Jakobsen, Commander of Norwegian Joint HQ, who represented Norway as the host nation during the media briefing, said that the exercise could be viewed as a, “realistic stress test,” of NATO’s current capabilities. It will be a great opportunity for the Alliance to test NATO’s cooperation in a high-density military scenario. Key challenges will be the coordination of 10,000 vehicles, the weather conditions in Norway and interoperability among 29 NATO countries.

In an earlier press conference, Adm. Foggo, who was born in Germany, had already highlighted the purely defensive character of the Alliance. “We’re not looking for a fight, but we are committed to defence and deterrence. That’s what this exercise is all about: training to defend, and providing a deterrent effect, ready to respond to any threat from any direction at any time,” the American admiral explained. 

NATO’s 5,000-strong Spearhead Force, otherwise known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), will play an important role in the exercise. Adm. Foggo is determined that TRJE 18 will demonstrate to the world that NATO is relevant, united and ready to defend itself in line with Article 5 testing, as well as proving its capability for collective defence.

The admiral described himself as ,“a firm transatlanticist,” and a great believer in the Alliance. He has held three NATO commands and has eight years experience in the European theatre. He called himself a submariner who spent twelve years of his life at sea, the better part of his career in the Pentagon bouncing back and forth between at-sea and European assignments. Looking back, he reflected: “I was born into NATO. My father was a Canadian officer and served in the Canadian Armed Forces and at the NATO Land Component Command Headquarters in Germany. I’m very proud of that heritage. I carry a copy of the NATO Charter with me at all times in my briefcase and I refer to it periodically, because this is going to be an Article 5 operation.” 

In the latest NATO Review magazine, Peter Williams, who works on Logistics in NATO’s Defence Policy and Planning Division in Brussels, highlighted the importance of deploying armed forces in times of crises: “Military mobility is essential for NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, and is now a key focus of cooperation with the European Union. Moving Allied forces into and across Europe at speed, and sustaining them, is a significant logistic challenge involving many stakeholders at national and multinational levels, which will be put to the test in exercise Trident Juncture.”

In a regular meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on 31 May, Russia was informed of the exact course and defensive character of the exercise. During the media briefing, NATO representatives stressed that Russia has no need to be concerned about the exercise, since land operations will be no closer than 1,000 km from the Russian border and air operations will be about 500 km away from Russian territory.

In order to provide transparency, NATO will invite international observers and journalists to Trident Juncture to enable them to get a better understanding and first-hand insight into the various operations and their developments. Russia held its exercise Wostok 2018 in eastern Russia in September, claiming it to be the largest exercise in its history, allegedly involving almost 300,000 soldiers, 36,000 tanks and military vehicles, 1,000 aircraft and 80 warships. However, according to consensus estimates of both Russian and Western observers, the actual number of troops fell short of the official figures.

Trident Juncture 2018: Facts and Figures

  • 50,000+ participants
  • 31 nations (all 29 NATO members + Finland and Sweden)
  • 150 aircraft
  • 60 vessels
  • 10,000+ vehicles
  • An anticipated 180 flights and 60 ships laoded with equipment and personnel will arrive at 27 different points (harbours, airports, railway terminals, roads) in Norway
  • 1.8 million meals will be served before and during the exercise
  • 4.6 million bottles of water will be delivered to the exercise
  • 660t of laundry will be done during the exercise.
  • 50 camps will be set up. Of these, 20 will be able to take more than 500 people, with the largest housing about 5,500.


Dr. Theodor Benien is an occasional contributor to the Mönch Publishing Group.


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