July 1, 2020 – Joint Force Command Norfolk (JFCNF), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) newest operational level warfighting headquarters, in partnership with U.S. 2nd Fleet, held the Fourth Battle of the Atlantic tabletop exercise (TTX) virtually for leaders from multinational commands to discuss the future warfighting strategy in the Atlantic.
Naval Warfighting Development Center (NWDC) facilitated the TTX, which presented commanders with vignettes to address command relationships, resources, mission priorities, and authorities in the Atlantic. The exercise’s goal was to create a shared understanding of the maritime security environment in the Atlantic amongst all participants, and ultimately to define JFCNF’s role in the battlespace as the new command matures.
“The importance of cultivating strong relationships with organizations across the Atlantic cannot be overstated,” said Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, dual hatted commander Joint Force Command Norfolk and U.S. Second Fleet. “The security environment is continually evolving and no one nation can do it alone. Maintaining security and stability in the Atlantic is a responsibility shared amongst many in order to ensure the international waters where we all operate remain free and open.”
During the TTX, senior leaders from NATO and Partner Nations shared perspectives on the security environment in order to challenge strategic and operational warfighting assumptions, ultimately with the goal of developing a shared understanding of the challenges faced in the North Atlantic. Leaders present represented 30 different commands, both within the NATO command structure and outside.
“This table top exercise is an important step in building solidarity and mutual strength amongst our nations as we work to ensure that NATO is ready to meet any challenge in the North Atlantic,” said Deputy Commander, Joint Force Command Norfolk, Rear Adm. Andrew Betton, OBE Royal Navy. “And we look forward to continuing the dialogue with Allies and Partners as JFC Norfolk approaches Initial and Full Operational Capability in the near future.”
The exercise, originally scheduled for an in-person conference, shifted to a virtual enabled platform in order to maximize participation while minimizing travel and risk of infection during the COVID-19 global pandemic – a sign of transatlantic connectivity and resilience across the Atlantic.
“Those of us gathered represent maritime nations, and the ability to assure freedom of navigation is a cornerstone of our collective defence,” said Vice Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet, Rear Adm. Steven Waddell, Royal Canadian Navy. “We are responding to the new security environment in the Atlantic with innovation and flexibility in both posture and mind set; this is an iterative and ever developing process, and one we will assuredly get right.”
The name “Fourth Battle of the Atlantic” acknowledges a return to great power competition by recognizing the first three “battles of the Atlantic,” first during World War I, next in World War II, and most recently during the Cold War. The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic TTX is one way NATO is strengthening its joint presence in the North Atlantic, which it reduced at the end of the Cold War as threats subsided.
NATO commands participating in the TTX included Joint Force Command Norfolk, Allied Maritime Command, Allied Joint Force Command Brunsum, Allied Air Command, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, Submarines NATO, NATO Allied Command Transformation, Combined Joint Operations from the Sea Center of Excellence, Standing Joint Logistics Support Group.
Several European countries participated, with the French Maritime Forces Atlantic, United Kingdom Strike Force, Norwegian Joint Headquarters, Danish Joint Operations Center, the Danish Joint Arctic Command, as well as representation from Iceland.
Non-NATO participation included representatives from partner nations of Sweden and Finland.
Participation from U.S. commands included Naval Forces Europe-Africa / U.S 6th Fleet, U.S. Fleet Forces, U.S. 2nd Fleet, II Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. 4th Fleet, U.S. 10th Fleet, Air Forces Northern, Military Sealift Command, Expeditionary Strike Group Two, Submarine Forces Atlantic, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, Submarine Group Two, and Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.
Joint Force Command Norfolk is among the new commands established as part of NATO Command Structure Adaptation, in order to meet the challenges of the evolving security environment. It is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia and provides a U.S.-led, joint multi-national operational command from NATO’s home in North America.
The North Atlantic Council created Joint Force Command Norfolk at the 2018 Brussels Summit to focus on protecting the transatlantic lines of communication. Since then, the command has gradually grown from its modest beginnings, and was activated by the North Atlantic Council in July 2019 as an International Military Headquarters. Joint Force Command Norfolk will increase NATO’s readiness across the North Atlantic and High North, strengthen the transatlantic bonds with Allies and Partners, and ultimately deter aggression from any potential adversaries.
The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic TTX is one of the ways NATO is strengthening its presence in the North Atlantic, which was reduced at the end of the Cold War as threats subsided. The exercise helped to develop staff expertise within JFC Norfolk’s operating area, improve interoperability and coordination, and increase overall NATO capability as Joint Force Command Norfolk continues to build toward Full Operational Capability.
NWDC develops and integrates innovative solutions to complex naval warfare challenges to enhance current and future warfighting capabilities. Command professionals are focused on operational-level concept generation, warfighting development, and cross-domain integration to strengthen U.S. Navy warfighting.
U.S. 2nd Fleet exercises operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and the North Atlantic, and will be closely integrated with JFCNF.