Joint Force Air Component
On the 10 Mar 19 staff and augmentees from the UK Joint Force Air Component (UK JFAC) deployed to Ramstein Air Base, Germany to support Exercise AUSTERE CHALLENGE 19. The US-led exercise used a challenging scenario to depict a developing crisis that required joint military planning to respond and execute a variety of options. The exercise also tested the ability of the UK’s high readiness operational HQs to integrate into their US counterparts. Standing Joint Force Headquarters (SJFHQ) acted as the UK National Contingent HQ within US European Command (US EUCOM), whilst the UK JFAC embedded into USAFE, both as the UK Air Contingent HQ and as individual staff placed within the divisions of the 603d Air Operations Centre.
Overall 4,000 personnel took part in the exercise from 13 -22 Mar 19 which was held across multiple sites. Observing and participating countries included Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
AC19 represents one of the stepping stones on the UK JFAC’s preparation to become the NATO Force Structure JFAC for the high readiness NATO Response Force (NRF) in 2020. The NRF is made up of air, land, maritime and Special Forces components that are available to SACEUR at readiness to deploy worldwide, providing an immediate military response to emerging crises. On activation the UK JFAC would integrate military air assets from contributing nations, tailoring capability to specific mission requirements.
Following completion of the exercise, personnel took the opportunity to undertake Force Development activities in the local environs and as far as Luxembourg. The latter to provide the opportunity to better understand the origin, role and continued efficacy of NATO from the perspective of the smallest NATO member.