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Nordic-Baltic Collaboration Boosts Logistics Demands

HELSINKI — Logistics cooperation among Nordic and Baltic militaries will deepen under Denmark’s newly assumed chairmanship of the Nordic Defence Cooperation (NORDEFCO) inter-state vehicle.  The need for closer logistics collaboration is being driven by the planned increase in joint force activities both on the operations side and in mission support infrastructure. 

A more robust focus by Nordic and Baltic militaries on sharing tasks and pooling resources will demand a degree of logistics collaboration that permeates all levels of core defence cooperation.
"Together we are building improved capacity and a stronger shared capability. Logistics will remain a vital area of military cooperation and development within NORDEFCO," said Peter Christensen, Denmark’s defence minister.
The logistics agenda for Denmark’s 12-month chair of NORDEFCO has been expanded to include the NATO-aligned Baltic States, as agreed under the Nordic-Baltic Declaration reached by government leaders in Stockholm in November 2015. 

Closer logistics cooperation with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also extends to coordination of force and equipment contributions to support UN missions as well as possible future joint contributions to the East African Standby Force.  Planning units within NORDEFCO are examining the overall cost and degree of logistics support required to enable the Nordic countries to provide an airborne transport capacity to UN missions on a rotational basis.
Nordic militaries have already developed a well-functioning, cost-efficient airborne transport capacity through the Nordic Tactical Air Transport unit, which has supported international missions. 

Moreover, NORDEFCO is also looking at the feasibility of establishing Nordic capacity to deliver contributions, on a rotational basis, to the UN’s Peacekeeping Capabilities Readiness System.  Logistics collaboration between militaries will also develop as part of Nordic-Baltic joint capacity-building projects in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as proposals to develop shared naval and air bases that would give aircraft, warships and military vehicles from member states greater access to the territories of other NORDEFCO countries. 

"The collective concept of Nordic defence is maturing. It has come quite a long way from being a low-profile vehicle for standard cross-border cooperation, to becoming a very credible and stabilizing tool in regional security confidence-building. The deeper the cooperation goes, the greater the need will be for logistics cooperation, planning and support, especially for joint international operations," said Allan Widman, chairman of the Swedish parliament’s Committee on Defence. 

The expansion in logistics resource planning is backed by the Vision 2020 plan agreed to by Nordic governments in 2013. The plan envisages increased joint international operations and more expansive multi-branch training and exercises between their armed forces. 

"There will be an increased pooling of capabilities and deepening cooperation in the area of life-cycle support of our defence inventories," the charter states. The planned establishment of a Nordic-Baltic Battalion Task Force  (BTF) under Vision 2020 will drive military cooperation in the area of logistics. The air-supported BTF is intended as a rapid-response unit, with extreme weather capabilities, that can be deployed regionally or to a more distant theatre of operation.  Industrial cooperation on logistics and life-cycle support for equipment, as well as joint maintenance and logistics support for the tactical air transport aircraft operated by Nordic militaries, will also be further developed by NORDEFCO, said Christiansen. 

COPA Operations (COPA OPS) and COPA Capabilities will remain the primary areas within NORDEFCO responsible for driving logistics cooperation initiatives related to international operations.  The main focus for COPA OPS has been Afghanistan, where all Nordic forces contribute to the International Security Assistance Force. Close cooperation continues within the core areas of medical evacuation helicopters, logistics and the operational mentoring of the Afghan Army.  COPA Capabilities runs projects designed to get the best performance from Nordic air transport assets. This includes operational use, maintenance, training and exercises, air transport capabilities, and base camp material provision and sharing. 

Logistics to support joint operations flows naturally from Nordic defence cooperation, given the tighter budgetary constraints facing their militaries, said Jens Brülls, a Berlin-based defence analyst.  "Nordic militaries have a much greater need to build resources and reinforce their capabilities at this time of uncertainty in the Baltic Sea region. Governments remain concerned about Russia’s long-term intentions. We will see more and larger joint  projects that elevate the importance of logistics collaboration even further as the defence partnership between the Nordic and Baltic militaries becomes deeper," Brülls said. 

Sweden recently leased two complete base camp material sets from the Norwegian Army’s Logistics Command Centre to support its mission in Mali.  Located at Bamako Senou International Airport, some 10 miles south of Mali’s capital Bamako, the Swedish base camp was transported and delivered in 200 containers.
The logistics solution struck between Sweden and Norway was made possible by a strategic cross-border agreement earlier reached between the Swedish defence material administration and the Norwegian military’s defence logistics organisation.  NORDEFCO is also planning to establish a Nordic base camp material pool to support joint military operations among Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Baltic armed forces.

By Gerard O'Dwyer, Defence News 11:16 a.m. EST January 31, 2016