Nato members states have been conducting Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) exercises in Slovenia as part of Adriatic Strike 2023, simulating air-ground-integration scenarios and the coordination of air and land operations.

Led by the host country, the exercise is in its eleventh iteration and has seen the use of crewed rotary as well as crewed and uncrewed platforms in the air and armoured vehicles, mortars and artillery on the ground.

However, weather conditions limited the participation of fast jet and rotary platforms, which were grounded due to torrential rain.

“The weather is what it is,” said Colonel Janez Gaube, Commander of the Slovenian Air Force and Adriatic Strike 2023 director. “We still managed to achieve the training objectives of the participants.”

The exercise saw multiple serials conducted from the strategic divisional down to the tactical platoon level, supported by digital communications and command and control elements.

Combined arms understanding

The battlefield doctrine of combined arms manoeuvre warfare, while well-understood in Nato circles, requires constant training to ensure that the multiple elements required for such serials are able to be commanded and controlled in alignment with an overarching strategic objective.

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One of the lynchpins for such operations are the JTAC operators, whose responsibility it is to coordinate various land- and air-based platforms within a complex three-dimensional battlespace.

Nato member states have spent months training Ukrainian personnel in the conduct of combined arms operations, with Kyiv’s forces now seemingly putting the skills into practice with their much-anticipated counter-offensive against Russia in the south and east of Ukraine.

Prior to Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Nato forces had undertaken a number of training exercises with Ukrainian forces specific to the JTAC role. In late-2018 US Air National Guard JTAC operators undertook an exercise with Ukrainian forward air controllers during Clear Sky 2018, which took place at multiple locations in Ukraine, and saw Ukrainian personnel communicate with and control Nato aircraft.

With Ukraine then seeking Nato membership, Ukraine’s forward air controllers would have to transition to certified JTACs through the NATO programme, it was reported at the time.