NATO’s eFP Battle Group in Latvia Starts the Conversation about countering the drone threat.

December 29, 2020 - Defence Stories
Author: Maj Mark Peebles, Task Force Latvia

As a deployed force working in a COVID-19 isolation bubble in compliance with host nation policies, Task Force Latvia and Multinational Headquarters members were not required to wear masks during the shooting of these pictures.

Caption

Members of enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group - Latvia participate in Exercise Beast Bird Shot to review best practices when dealing with unmanned air vehicles.

Image taken on November 05, 2020 in Camp Adazi Training Area, Latvia by enhanced Forward Presence - Latvia Imagery Technician, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

Unmanned aerial vehicles are an emerging threat to NATO soldiers deployed around the world, and especially in the Baltic region, and the leadership of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Latvia held a symposium in Camp Adazi 5-7 November to talk about how to deal with it.

Battle Group Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Trevor Norton intends for the fruits of these discussions to not just inform how they deal with the threat posed by unmanned aerial systems today, but feed ongoing and future capability development among Allied nations.

Numerous conflict zones in the world have seen the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) by combatants. They can range from large aircraft in military inventories to small quad-copters privately bought from commercial retailers. From Syria, to Eastern Ukraine to the current conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan drones have been used to attack personnel and equipment, as well as conduct surveillance and help direct fire onto targets.

LCol Norton says they recognized this threat as they prepared to deploy to Latvia, and made it a priority to come up with solutions.

“When I was looking at our adversaries and the way in which they have conducted recent operations around the world, it was obvious that they used UAS to great effect,” he says. “I determined that if we were to continue to be successful in deterring foreign aggression, we must demonstrate the ability to counter the threat of UAS. This is what led me to the idea of running a counter-UAS symposium and exercise.”

The symposium combined presentations by experts from the United Kingdom and Canada with open discussion between members of all nine nations of the Battle Group as well as members of the Latvian National Armed Forces about the capabilities they have in Adazi, and how they could use them to minimize the UAS threat. Finally, they tested some of their weapon systems in shooting down target drones at the Camp Adazi range.

Caption

A member of enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group - Latvia participates in Exercise Beast Bird Shot to review best practices when dealing with unmanned air vehicles.

Image taken on November 05, 2020 in Camp Adazi Training Area, Latvia by enhanced Forward Presence - Latvia Imagery Technician, Canadian Armed Forces Photo

As an anti-aircraft artillery officer, Spanish Army Major Pablo Samaniego says he understands how the UAS threat is transforming the way Allied soldiers operate. Previously involved in discussions on the topic in his armed forces, he notes that the Spanish have already fielded some systems in other operations. Still, for him this was a good opportunity to see how other nations are addressing it in order to come up with a cohesive solution.

LCol Norton points out that with the collective knowledge and expertise present in the Battle Group, they are in an excellent position to share ideas and develop solutions.

“The biggest challenge for the Battle Group is also its greatest strength – namely its diversity. This is a huge advantage over our adversary,” he says. “The diversity of capabilities, experience, and knowledge integral within the Battle Group is an exceptional demonstration of the strength of NATO.”

Major Matt Bentley, the organizer of the symposium, stresses that this is a complex problem that will not be solved with one symposium. Still he says it was an important first step in the process of developing practices and capabilities that can defend Allied soldiers from drones while defending Latvia. Following the symposium, the Battle Group will draft a service paper that will be sent to all sending nations for each ally to consider as they develop ways to defeat this threat.

As Allied nations develop ways and means to combat the threat posed by UAS, LCol Norton anticipates that the Battle Group will be in a good position to test them in a multinational context. In the meantime, the Battle Group will continue to build and refine tactics, techniques and procedures using the tools at hand to mitigate the threat.

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