Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia, 11 April 2017
The Bundeswehr’s 3 Tactical Air Command and Control Group is about to move over 800 tonnes of equipment and nearly 100 soldiers to Latvia. The unit is currently preparing for Persistent Presence 2017, its mission at Lielvārde Air Base in Latvia. At NATO’s external border, the German air force’s only deployable command and reporting centre (DCRC) will contribute significantly to security in Baltic airspace.
The air force Chief of Staff has barely taken the relevant decision and preparations are already in full swing. In the second quarter of the year, the Deployable Tactical Task Force will once again ship its entire equipment. As soon as April 2017, the DCRC will be set up in Latvia and integrated in the Baltic countries’ air policing. It will be run by about 100 soldiers at the Latvian air base in Lielvārde.
Before this can happen, a number of arrangements must be made, especially with NATO and the Baltic states. An important factor in smooth planning are site surveys, for which the responsible specialists meet in the country before deployment. While possible locations for the prefab offices are thoroughly surveyed and the technical infrastructure is examined, several legal agreements will be updated to reflect current circumstances. Everything that could be a challenge for the DCRC when it starts operating is discussed and solved jointly.
A total of 800 tonnes of equipment is leaving Schönewalde, by train, ship and lorry; a lot of effort is required for the task.
One of the more difficult jobs is to adapt the technical equipment to the hard and software interfaces. The technological environment changes with every new deployment. Even when redeployed to a previous location, the unit can be faced with altered standards or new versions of software. The situation will be familiar to anyone who has been abroad and found themselves in need of a different plug for their phone charger. The Baltic states, for example, are currently digitising their radio network. The new standard will be Voice of Internet Protocol (VoIP). The Internet will then be used for voice transmission instead of separate telephone lines.
Off to the Baltic with excess baggage
Getting the unit fully operational in Latvia will take 75 freight containers, 12 HGVs, more than 50 kilometres of cable and any number of helping hands. The shipment will weigh more than 800 tonnes altogether, but only once all preparations are complete will the equipment be checked and packed up within a very short timeframe. The DCRC alone accounts for 400 tonnes.
In addition, the soldiers of 3 Tactical Air Command and Control Group are travelling with their own radar. The data packages it collects with every sweep will be sent to the DCRC via satellite and combined with the data from BALTNET, the radar network maintained by the three Baltic states, to generate aerial situational awareness. This will assist the DCRC in providing instructions to the military aircraft it operates for their flights in the airspace allocated to them.
Mission unchanged in 2017
The entire DCRC operated under deployment conditions for the first time from July to September last year, during Persistent Presence 2016. That deployment was run successfully and in good time, despite the short notice of the mandate which the German air force received in spring 2016. The effectiveness of the deployable units was clearly demonstrated during this time.
Moving into 2017, the core mission remains to reinforce the Baltic states’ security and make an effective contribution to the stability of the NATO Alliance. The Bundeswehr is furthermore intensifying the good relationships it has in the Baltic states and sending a message of solidarity to Germany’s allies. The first freight containers and major items of equipment will start arriving in Lielvārde before Easter.
The deployment of the German DCRC is part of the reassurance measures adopted at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014. With this step, the Bundeswehr is sending a strong message of solidarity to the Baltic countries and reinforcing NATO’s presence on its eastern flank.
Even before the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Baltic states had called for greater overall visibility of NATO. The goal of Persistent Presence is a stronger, almost permanent presence of Alliance forces. With its emphasis on collective defence vis-à-vis Russia, Persistent Presence is supported above all by the other eastern European countries, but also by the US, Canada, the UK, Denmark and Norway. It is a measure involving all Bundeswehr services, with the air force having a lead role. Forces from the Bundeswehr’s Central Medical Service are also helping to carry out the mission, while the Military Police provide security for the German soldiers abroad.
This is the translation of an article by Andreas Remmel published on www.luftwaffe.de