NATO Steadfast Jazz drills kick off next week. At 30 seconds of jet flight from Russia.

Largest NATO Response Force exercise – Steadfast Jazz (SFJZ) 2013 – will start in the Baltic region next week.

As Rzeczpospolita, one of the Polish dailies, claims, some areas over which the event is going to take place are located at less than 30 seconds of jet flight from Russian territory.

The exercise will be held between Nov. 2 and 9 and it will be the last exam of the NRF – NATO Response Force that is going to be on alert throughout 2014.

The exercise aims to improve the interoperational capabilities of the Joint forces, featuring 6,000 soldiers, including 3,000 from the Joint Force Command Brussum. The command HQ is going to established in Adazi base, near Riga.

The main body of the exercise will take place on Drawsko Pomorskie range in Poland, with some additional locations for the Navy and Air Forces. Some part is also going to take place in the coastal areas.

The Brunssum Command is going to be evaluated in the scope of command capabilities.

What is interesting is the fact that the name of the exercise comes from the SHAPE – Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe Command – (S in Steadfast), while the J in Jazz points to the Joint character of the event, with all kinds of forces participating in the event, including land, air, sea and special forces.

The aviation episodes of SFJZ are going to be another edition of Eagle Talon exercise. Besides the Polish aviators from 21., 22., and 31. Air Bases, Hungarian and Czech pilots with L-159A and JAS 39 Gripen airplanes are also going to benefit from additional training opportunity during the exercise.

Air defence forces including SAM crews will be involved as well.

Additionaly the Eagle Talon is also to feature AWACS and a Tanker. Over 40 military aircraft will be flying in the Polish airspace during the exercise.

On the political side the SFJZ 2013 caused controversy, since in the mainstream media outlets it was compared to the Russian-Belarussian Zapad ’13 exercise.

Now the picture is quite different, as NATO officials claim that the exercise has a purely defensive character with a fictional scenario.

Zapad ’09 simulated a nuclear attack on Poland, while the ’13 focused on an ethnic unrest. The main point is that the Russian exercises did point to the specific enemy (Poland), while SFJZ does not name any – in this way it is more neutral.

On the other side, Anatoliy Antonov, Russian deputy Minister of Defense, claims that SFJZ 2013 scenario of NATO defending Poland revives the Cold War atmosphere. Nonetheless NATO claims that it will invite Rusian observers to the Steadfast Jazz theater.

The Steadfast Jazz exercise is going to take place each 2 years after ISAF is withdrawn from the Afghan theater. Next exercise is planned in 2015 in Portugal. The Afghan mission is to end next year.

Jacek Siminski for TheAviationist

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Translator and author in Polish „Lotnictwo” [Aviation] magazine, musician, bass player, aviation geek, linguist, media discourse and communication expert.