NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Dynamic Messenger 22: An OPEX Exercise Designed for the Future

September 29, 2022

Dynamic Messenger 22 - An OPEX Exercise Designed for the Future

Troia, Portugal

The first edition of NATO’s Dynamic Messenger 2022 drew to a close today after bringing together military, industry and academia to Portugal’s Maritime Operational Experimentation Centre (CEOM) near Troia, Portugal for NATO’s first operational experimentation exercise focused on maritime unmanned systems (MUS). Maritime operational experimentation within NATO is designed to be a forcing function to increase innovation and deliver true capability and interoperability development.

“We recognize that the introduction of maritime uncrewed systems presents challenges and opportunities for the Alliance, in all aspects of maritime warfare.” said Vice Admiral Keith Blount, Commander of Allied Maritime Command. “Dynamic Messenger 22 has significantly increased our capacity to employ current and future technologies. This is an important aspect of our vital work with maritime uncrewed systems to further increase NATO’s technological advantage.”

During the weeklong exercise, drones went underwater, on the surface and in the air. The drones then transmitted data to combat management systems of participating NATO vessels and at the exercise command centre, located at Troia. For the first time, maritime unmanned operating picture was shared with a warship. The observations, analysis and lessons learned from the execution of each scenario feeds into the development of NATO’s tactics, techniques and procedures in the use of unmanned maritime systems. The data also informs nations and the alliance on capability development and digital transformation.

“We have now concluded the first operational experimentation phase of Dynamic Messenger,” said Vice Admiral Guy Robinson, Chief of Staff, Allied Command Transformation. “Now we will bring the data, the insights from commanders and the lessons forward to better define how those emerging disruptive technologies, particularly unmanned maritime systems, can be brought into the operational sphere.”

Portugal’s Maritime Operational Experimentation Centre (CEOM) offered Dynamic Messenger 22 a unique operating area, designated as a free technology space, it allowed for unhindered experimentation with MUS and innovative technologies. The integration of the CEOM into the Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA), as a NATO test centre, aims to accelerate the development of emerging and disruptive dual use technology solutions.

Contributions to the exercise came from both military and industry, and was co-led by Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) and Allied Command Transformation (ACT). MARCOM provided the operational planning and execution experience, committing two of NATO’s Standing Naval Groups for the duration of the exercise (SNMG1 and SNMCMG1). MARCOM also worked closely with the Portuguese hosts to ensure that operations were de-conflicted with civilian maritime and air traffic.

ACT tested Minimal Viable Products concentrated on counter mine warfare and an ACT team led the Evaluation, Analysis and Assessment syndicate. ACT also funds NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research Experimentation Contributions (CMRE), which deployed one of its largest contribution of equipment and personnel to a NATO exercise. CMRE conducted missions such as a passive Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) serial utilizing a collaborative autonomous network of static and dynamic sensing nodes to detect/track an artificial target. The locations of vehicles and track data was relayed back to the Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) using Collaborative Autonomy Tasking Layer (CATL) and Command, Control, Communication Maritime Robotic Exploitation (C3MRE). This means unmanned systems are showing increasing maturity and readiness as they transition to fully fledged capabilities. CMRE also demonstrated the integration of digital twins for its ASW assets into C3MRE using CATL messages.

Dynamic Messenger 22 has demonstrated the importance of operational experimentation in an exercise context, where the exercise does not validate readiness, rather it offers a venue where collaboration between industry, academia and militaries can be conducted in a real time setting. NATO must test technologies to better understand how digital transformation, and the speed of its introduction, can be operationalized across the alliance to allow seamless command and control, and to address capability development. The goal for NATO is for operational experimentation to be a forcing function to increase innovation and to deliver true capability and interoperability development.

The exercise provides NATO’s digital transformation will scale up the generation, sharing, processing and employment of data to enable multi-domain operations, agile interoperability and enhanced escalation management. To enable continued success, ACT will help build an innovative mind-set change; interoperability requires open architectures, non-priority standards and an agile CAPDEV with a modular incremental approach. In turn that will enable a Multi-Domain Operations Alliance supporting with capability development, defence planning and innovation.