NATO's Amphibious Forces: Command and Control of a Multi-brigade Alliance Task Force
(Source: Rand Corporation; issued July 15, 2019)
Amphibious leaders of seven North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations — France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States — participate in the Amphibious Leaders Expeditionary Symposium (ALES), a forum for general and flag officers to discuss opportunities for improved interoperability, command and control (C2), and utilization of amphibious forces within NATO.

Meeting since 2016, ALES efforts have focused on integrating existing forces to contribute to NATO's deterrence posture and collective defense at the major joint operation plus (MJO+) level.

In 2017–2018, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa asked the RAND Corporation to design and facilitate three events with the objective of identifying suitable C2 constructs and associated doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and interoperability considerations for large-scale NATO maritime and amphibious operations.

Aided by a scenario centered on confrontation with a near-peer competitor, maritime and amphibious leaders explored how to leverage NATO's existing amphibious capacity by aggregating national capabilities into a coherent C2 structure.

In this report, the authors analyze the results of these three events, note their observations, and state implications and potential next steps for NATO.

Key Findings

Four key findings came as a result of the wargaming events and subsequent discussion

-- NATO has considerable amphibious capacity, but these forces have been an underrecognized asset. Existing national and bilateral brigade-size amphibious task groups (ATGs) maintain the requisite shipping, connectors, and landing forces to conduct multi-brigade operations, but further evolution of candidate C2 constructs are required to realize this capability and enhance interoperability among ATGs.

-- There is an emerging consensus around a baseline C2 structure — termed the centralized amphibious task force (ATF) — for NATO amphibious operations in an MJO+ scenario. This construct, developed by ALES stakeholders, offers a mechanism to leverage NATO's amphibious capacity by aggregating national and bilateral capabilities into a coherent C2 structure.

-- The centralized ATF construct requires commanders and staff with experience in multinational operations and expertise in amphibious warfare. Several national and allied organizations exist with the potential to take on this role but would require staff augmentation and a long-term training plan aligned with NATO's exercise program.

-- Knowledge and experience in large-scale amphibious operations has atrophied across allied naval and landing force practitioners. Existing doctrine may not be sufficiently clear regarding its application to amphibious operations of a multinational force above the brigade level.

Click here for the full report (109 PDF pages) on the Rand website.


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