NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

Improving Interoperability through Innovation

June 25, 2019

Improving Interoperability through Innovation

CWIX – NATO’s Premier Interoperability Exercise Draws to a Close

Over the last three weeks of the Coalition Warrior Interoperability eXercise (CWIX), hosted at the NATO Joint Force Training Centre in Bydgoszcz, Poland, military interoperability between our people, processes and technologies has been tested to its absolute limit. Today, senior personnel from NATO Alliance and partner nations and other organizations recognised the importance of ensuring that our forces can connect and exchange information seamlessly prior to deployment.

The CWIX execution this year was the largest to date, with close to 40 nations and organizations executing more than 7000 interoperability tests between more than 300 deployable military capabilities. The interoperability tests and improvements serve to bring together Alliance and partner nations, improve the exchange of operational information between deployable computer systems and thus forge a stronger Alliance and create deeper understanding between our nations and organizations. Interoperability is in NATO’s ‘DNA’; through collaboration and a spirit of innovation, at CWIX we can continuously improve our ability to operate together whenever and wherever required.

Major General Krzysztof Król, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, represented Poland as the host nation of CWIX at today’s VIP Day and underlined the importance of acting together. “Particularly in the light of NATO’s response to the changing security environment to the east of the Alliance’s borders, we see the fundamental importance of this exercise. Without a high level of interoperability between our forces, the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force would not be as efficient and effective as it is,” said General Król during a media event at CWIX.

Allied Command Transformation, NATO’s Warfare Development Command, manages CWIX on behalf of participating nations. Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Admiral Manfred Nielson, based in Norfolk, VA, USA, puts a premium on the ability of multinational units to act together as it is the foundation for all NATO joint, multinational, and interagency operations. “No single nation is capable enough to succeed in today’s complex security environment. Allies and partners however are only force multipliers if they are able to act together as they deploy. Our systems have to be interoperable in exercises but also in operations. This test happens here at CWIX prior to deployment which makes us more effective and efficient during operations in the future.”

Vice Admiral Paul Bennett, Chief of Staff at NATO Allied Command Transformation highlighted military interoperability as an essential requirement for NATO’s forces. “We are doing CWIX because we live in an uncertain world. As an Alliance, our forces must be ready whenever and wherever NATO forces are called upon. Our forces must be able to operate instinctively together from the moment they deploy and our commanders, leaders and decision makers can make faster decisions with better outcomes than our potential adversaries. This is a vital endeavour and the raison d’etre of Allied Command Transformation,” said Bennett in his opening address to visitors. Many capability tests at CWIX aim to improve the ability to share information between allies, partners and organizations leveraging emergent technology and innovation.

CWIX falls into the capability development domain, led by Lieutenant General Thomas Sharpy, also from NATO’s Allied Command Transformation. He visited the exercise area in which more than 1500 experts are conducting interoperability tests. In the Cyber Focus Area, he stressed that “retrofitting to be interoperable further down the road is always very expensive and inefficient. Therefore, in our activities in the cyber domain for example, we built capabilities which are ‘Interoperable by Design’ ensuring that the sum is greater than its parts.” As Cyberspace is a new military domain of operations, making it vital “that the Alliance and its partners develop capabilities that allow us to understand and improve awareness of our adversaries who are operating against us, and so we can defend ourselves from potential threats,” said Sharpy during his walk-around. He concluded: “Achieving collective cyber defence as a federation will enhance the resilience of Alliance and Partner Nations and other organization so we can act together as one, to keep us safe.”

Major General Wilhelm Grün, Commander of the Joint Force Training Centre and the host of the annual CWIX event, underlined the benefits of the Joint Force Training Centre for CWIX and NATO. “When I say we “host” CWIX, I am not just talking about board and lodging (…) I am also talking about the whole CIS [Communications and Information Systems] infrastructure, the information security and the physical security, and many more organisational areas.” General Grün also underlined the JFTC’s active participation in the exercise as the co-lead of the modelling & simulation functional area together with the NATO Modelling and Simulation Centre of Excellence. “Through its battle laboratory function, JFTC is conducting test cases and experiments in order to explore and validate its new modelling and simulation capabilities to further develop warfare and interoperability within the Alliance and with the partners.”

CWIX enables NATO nations, partners and organizations to connect their forces and be able to exchange the vital information needed to be ready, effective and efficient from the very beginning of a mission. At CWIX, we achieve ‘interoperability through innovation’, recognising that mission success requires interoperable people, processes and technology. CWIX is the place where nations are committed to supporting NATO missions, following the concept of ‘try, fail, fix, try again’. It is only when we push ourselves to the point of failure that yields progress and improvement.