Trident Juncture 18

Trident Juncture 2018 - NATO Exercise in Norway

Trident Juncture 18 is a big exercise that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is conducting in Norway. It involves over 50,000 personnel from many countries and numerous ships, aircraft, and ground vehicles. The participating nations include NATO members, NATO allies, and partner countries. It is one of NATO’s biggest exercises in recent years. Trident Juncture 18 is designed to deter potential adversaries (that would be Russia) from mounting an attack on Norway or countries in the Baltic Sea region.

The exercise is taking place during the months of October and November. Over 30 countries are taking part including a sizable contingent from the United States. It is estimated that thousands of vehicles will take part as well as over 250 aircraft and over 60 ships. This is one of the largest exercises ever held in the country. It will involve units from the tactical level to the top of the chain of command.

Ski Troops Trident Juncture 2018

The exercise involves the movement of a lot of participants and units. The live training takes place from October 25th to November 7th and is followed by a command post exercise held the last few weeks of November. The country of Norway offers a lot of training opportunities over land, air, and sea. The weather will be a challenge due to the northern location of Norway.

The inclusion of Sweden and Finland in the exercise is important to ensure interoperability in the event of a crisis or conflict in the Baltic Sea region. The north of Europe is of significant strategic value. Control of the North Cape’s airfields and sea lanes will ensure the Russian maritime assets are bottled up. And there is the oil . . . think Occupied.

Trident Juncture 2018 area of operations map

The area of operations for the exercise is primarily Norway with some activities taking place on Iceland. Air operations will take place in the greater region to include Finland and Sweden while naval activity will be in the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea. The scenario is about the defense of Norway – making it an Article 5 type exercise, a response to the violation of sovereignty of a NATO nation.

Participating Units

The exercise will test the rapid deployment of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. [3] The force numbers about 5,000 (or more), is representative of nine NATO nations, and is sometimes referred to as the “Spearhead Force’. The task force will be tested in responding to an attack on NATO’s northern flank.  It is also the NATO Response Force 19 certification exercise for HQ Joint Forces Command Naples and its designated component commands.

A Marine CV-22 operates off the coast of Iceland during exercise Trident Juncture 2018 on October 17, 2018.

Photo: A Marine CV-22 operates off the coast of Iceland during exercise Trident Juncture 2018 on October 17, 2018.

U.S. Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are playing a big part in the exercise – to include spending some time in Iceland where they conducted a training air assault. [1] An air assault was conducted in Icelandic terrain (Oct 17th) utilizing CH-53E Sea Stallions from the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) onto Keflavik Air Base. The Marines will conduct an amphibious operation in Norway later in the exercise. The Marines from 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment are in the role as the Battalion Landing Team (BLT).

Marines from other NATO nations are also participating. Dutch Marines are debarking from ships by way of Landing Craft Utility (LCU) vessels onto shore. The Dutch Marines are also infiltrating by way of Cougar helicopters as well. One of the larger Dutch ships in the exercise is the HNLMS Johyan de Witt. The Dutch Marines are employing BVS Viking ATVs and Fast Riding Interceptor Special Craft (FRISC) in the exercise.

A US Navy aircraft carrier has entered the Arctic Circle – an unusual event to say the least. Of course, wherever a carrier goes, lots of other ships follow – as part of the carrier strike group. In total, there will be over 14,000 US service members participating.

Canadian forces in the exercise number about 2,000. Personnel and equipment from the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force will operate together with other exercise participants. Two Canadian frigates and two Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels will take part. More than ten aircraft will be present. A large contingent from the 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG) will act as a multinational brigade.

Trident Juncture 2018 - Very High Readiness Task Force NATO

The Italian Multinational Brigade – consisting of the countries of Italy, Albania, Montenegro, Spain, and Slovenia – is participating in the exercise. [2] Elements of the Finnish Army will join up with a Swedish brigade. There is also some ground activity taking place in Sweden and Finland associated with the exercise as well.

Air Forces participating in Trident Juncture 2018.

Over 250 aircraft from 16 different nations will take part in the exercise. This includes aircraft from the non-NATO countries of Sweden and Finland. Both land-based and sea-based aircraft will take part.


There will be over 20 exercise experiments conducted during Trident Juncture 18. The exercise provides an environment for existing and new technologies to be tested, refined, and further developed. One of the is the use of a deployable dining facility. This experiment will demonstrate the feasibility of employing a specialized team of logisticians for the set up and operation of a Deployable Mess.

HSwMs Nykoping (Sweden) and HDMS Esbern snare (Denmark) in TJ18

Photo: HSwMs Nykoping (Sweden) and HDMS Esbern snare (Denmark) in TJ18.

Fight for Norway – Future Conflict

A conflict in Norway involving Russia would very likely see a lot of action on the North Cape. The sea lanes above the cape will be contested as well as the ground lines of communication from the Kola peninsular to the airfields in north Norway. Are you interested in a fictional account of how a future conflict in northern Norway would start . . . and finish? Read Angry Trident, a short story by August Cole published by the Atlantic Council on September 23, 2018.

Northern Coasts 2018 and SOF

There has not been much mention of special operations forces but NATO SOF – to include US land, sea, and air SOF assets – have participated in previous Trident Juncture exercises in past years. Another exercise running in the same time frame as TJ18 is Northern Coasts 2018. This is a German Navy exercise which is being led by the Finnish Navy this year. The dates of Northern Coasts 18 are 25 October to 8 November 2018. It involves about 4,000 people and scores of surface vessels and aircraft. Over 13 countries will participate – including the United States. There will be a maritime SOF element to NC18. The exercise in Finland will provide an opportunity to enhance high intensity war-fighting skills in a multi-national environment and improve maritime capabilities to operate from the sea to the shore.

Exercise Transparency and Messaging

Trident Juncture 2018 (TJ18) is a very transparent exercise. NATO has been extremely careful in stressing the ‘defensive’ nature of the military operation. NATO has not identified Russia as the aggressor in the scenario. Russian observers have been invited to view the exercise and there has been a lot of media briefs about the exercise to the general public. The ground operations will take place about 1,000 klics from the Norway-Russian border and air operations will be at least 500 klics away from the border area.

NATO has stressed that it is a defensive alliance but the exercise will demonstrate that the treaty organization has a credible capability that can deter potential adversaries. This is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s largest exercise in decades.

NATO is sending a message.



[1] Watch a video of the 24th MEU conduct cold weather training in Iceland as part of NATO’s exercise Trident Juncture 2018. (NATO Channel DVIDS, Oct 22, 2018, 2 mins, B-Roll).

[2] Watch a video where members of the Italian Multinational Brigade are interviewed about their impressions of the exercise. (Allied Joint Force Command Naples, Oct 20, 2018, 3 mins).

[3] The NATO Response Force (NRF) has as one of its components the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF). It is made up of land, air, maritime, and special operations forces components. It provides collective defence and a rapid military response to an emerging crisis. The VJTF is the Spearhead Force within the NRF.


Trident Juncture 18 Press Conference, NATO JFC Naples. June 11, 2018.

Meet NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), NATO, September 4, 2018, 1 min.


About SOF News 1143 Articles
SOF News provides news, analysis, commentary, and information about special operations forces (SOF) from around the world.