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Jan 27 2021

Iron Wolf: certification of multinational forces

Equipped with nearly 1100 vehicles and a number of aircraft, approximately 3000 servicemen and women from 14 nations demonstrate their skills during the two-week Iron Wolf exercise. Side by side with French Leclerc tanks, German and Norwegian main battle tanks are rolling through Lithuanian forests. The focus of the exercise is on the NATO certification of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania. The multinational exercise demonstrates that the Battlegroup is operational and able to effectively repel any aggression towards NATO allies.

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Ready to roll in the morning: French VBL armoured vehicles and Leclerc main battle tanks: Bundeswehr/PAO EFP

The sound of the alarm marks the beginning of the exercise.

Saturday, close to 8 a.m.: On Saturdays, the servicemen and women of the Battlegroup usually get up a little later. Today, however, is a different day: The alarm yanks the soldiers from sleep. The Iron Wolf exercise has officially begun. Now things are getting serious, but the eFP Battlegroup responds quickly and efficiently. The servicemen and women immediately jump out of their beds. They quickly finish their morning routine, don their body armour, put on their helmets, pick up their weapons and hurry to get their vehicles: There is a lot of activity all over the place.

The combat forces receive ammunition, vehicle covers are removed and field rations for the next days are distributed. A deep rumbling sound can be heard as the 1500-hp engines of the main battle tanks are started up. In the meantime, the commanding officers are briefed on the situation and receive orders for the upcoming mission. Within no more than a few hours, all measures are completed. Organised in march serials, the vehicles line up for the next part of the manoeuvre: the tactical road march.

Personnel and equipment headed for their destination

The tactical transport of personnel and equipment forms a core part of the exercise. In order to practice this, the entire Battlegroup moves from its barracks in Rukla to the tactical assembly area near the Pabrade military training area.

Moving on two separate routes, the Battlegroup has to cover a distance of 90 kilometres. A military police escort ensures that the convoys arrive at their destination without any problems. The military police sets up temporary road blocks and uses flashing blue lights to warn civilian traffic.

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Moving in a large column, the participants are headed for the military training area: Bundeswehr/PAO EFP

During the exercise, the military police of the Battlegroup is supported by the Lithuanian Karo Police. "Cooperation with the Lithuanian military police has been very smooth. There has not been a single incident, and we have been able to contribute to a safe and swift road march," says a German military police soldier. Travelling at an average speed of 30 kilometres per hour, the tank convoys meander through villages and across country roads. "We have had no technical problems, and we have reached all passage points on time," a German vehicle commander notes with satisfaction. Upon arrival at the destination, all vehicles are refuelled in order to make them ready for follow-on operations.

On the home stretch

Once arrived in the tactical assembly area, the servicemen and women prepare for the upcoming missions. During the exercise, the Battlegroup sets up the staging area – the location where the forces are assembled – in the vicinity of an abandoned industrial site. Since time for preparation is short and valuable, everybody rolls up their sleeves and gets to work. While some pitch tents for the night, others dig a pit for a small campfire. The fire is used for cooking food and as a source of heat when temperatures drop to around zero at night.

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During the exercise, the servicemen and woman always sleep very close to their vehicles: Bundeswehr/PAO EFP

"The weather, in particular, the cold, is somewhat challenging, but morale is good. We have got proper clothing and a fire to prepare hot meals," a German armoured infantry soldier explains the situation. The tactical assembly area, however, is not only used to restore combat power. There, the Battlegroup also makes final preparations for the upcoming combat action. Branches are used to camouflage the combat vehicles, and the soldiers put dark green camouflage paint in their faces in order to blend in as ideally as possible with the surroundings. "We are ready for combat, well prepared and are looking forward to whatever will happen tomorrow," says a German armoured engineer.

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A force to be reckoned with: The Leopard2 main battle tank weighs 62 tons and has a maximum speed of 72 kilometres per hour: Bundeswehr/PAO EFP

Fighting side by side

The magazines are loaded, the machine gun belts are inserted, the mines are buried and the soldiers are ready for combat. The upcoming days are marked by high-intensity combat. In response to a fictional enemy attack, the NATO troops mount a delaying operation. The objective is to stop the enemy forces in order to gain time for moving up friendly reinforcements. Terrain is traded for time. Subsequently, the Battlegroup conducts a counter attack and regains the terrain previously conceded.

During the Iron Wolf exercise, the eight rotation of the eFP Battlegroup in Lithuania has impressively showcased its skills. Such large and complex exercises are the only way to guarantee the operational readiness of the Battlegroup in future. "This exercise was a full success. Whether alerting, road march or combat, cooperation worked smoothly across all nations. This has further strengthened the capability spectrum of the eFP mission," notes the Commander of the Battlegroup in Lithuania, Lieutenant Colonel Peer Papenbroock, with satisfaction.

Story by Sascha Klenk 

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