The Navy, Army and Air Force are practicing tactical fire support together in Northern Norway.

Soldiers on land need fire support in combat. Almost 1,200 soldiers from the Bundeswehr and the Norwegian armed forces practice this complex procedure together at Heimdall 2022. The NATO technical term for this is Joint Fire Support. ” Joint” stands for part of the armed forces, “Fire Support” is tactical fire support for land forces. Fire support can be provided, for example, by mortars, artillery, fighter-bombers, combat helicopters, but also frigates from the German Navy for ground troops.

The challenge here is that parts of the Bundeswehr have to work together that do not do this every day, but are essential for national and alliance defense. The trainer, Captain Michael Sauerborn, emphasizes: “ Joint Fire Support is not a niche or marginal phenomenon. The images of the war in Ukraine show us every day what multidimensional military operations are.”

The frigates “Rheinland-Pfalz”, “Schleswig-Holstein”, “Mecklenburg-Vorpommern” and the task force supply ship “Berlin” are the maritime training unit, supplemented by the Sea Lynx on-board helicopter and the Sea King transport helicopter. In the coming days they will train to work together with soldiers from the 23rd Mountain Infantry Brigade. The army soldiers include artillery observers, called spotters, who instruct the frigates on land targets. From the training ground, these army soldiers control the fire support, the naval gunfire support, of the naval ships out at sea.

The frigate “Rheinland-Pfalz”, here in 2021 in Eckernfoerder Bay. Bundeswehr/Steve Back

“We’re training a highly complex procedure using a live shot,” explains trainer Sauerborn. “The most important thing here is that every exercise participant knows who is doing what and when at all times. We will have helicopters and jets in the air, mountaineers firing mortars, ships using their guns, and everyone will fire at the same time.”

The Heimdall 2022 maneuver is unique in this form for the Bundeswehr. Internationally, too, there are only a few military exercises that simultaneously practice joint tactical fire support in all dimensions and with all decision-making levels. But Sauerborn emphasizes how important this is: “ Joint Fire Support is there to protect our soldiers, it protects their life and limb in the event of an emergency out there in combat. Therefore, it is imperative that we train this process.”

The final preparations for the maneuver are currently underway: the ship’s convoy is assembled in Harstad, Norway, and the exercise management is housed on the island of Andøya. Everyone involved makes final reconnaissance and re-checks the safety aspects of the maneuver.