171023tidesprint400The 30th TIDE Sprint was the biggest ever with over 360 participants from thirteen NATO and four Partner Nations developing concepts, roadmaps, specifications and requirement to solve many of NATO’s interoperability challenges.

Representatives from research organisations, academia and industry joined military operators and leaders at NATO’s 30th Think-Tank for Information and Decision Execution Superiority (TIDE) Sprint. NATO’s Allied Command Transformation hosted TIDE Sprint in Virginia Beach, USA, from October 23rd to 27th to address these and other complex technological issues that are challenging NATO and its Partners. The theme of this TIDE Sprint was Federated Interoperability by Design.

Why TIDE Sprint is Essential to NATO’s Transformation

Imagine a mission network allowing military units to connect immediately, not in days or months. Now imagine that every member of every unit belonging to an Alliance or Partner Nation has the situational awareness they need, providing better protection for those who are in harm’s way! Consider also a scenario that allows Allies to build a more resilient communications network by connecting their national cyber assets to improve cyber situational awareness far beyond what has been previously available to Alliance members. These are three scenarios where the application of technology - including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and additive manufacturing - would benefit NATO now and in the future.

In his opening keynote speech General Denis Mercier, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, stated, “The federating architectures that we define must encompass all the needed ‘hooks’ to ensure that future systems will naturally, natively be created interoperable”. Interoperability is the ability for Allied units to act together; it is the foundation of NATO operations and must be designed and built into systems and capabilities from the onset. Allies therefore need to agree on collective interoperability as concepts and designs are developed. This federated approach is a key outcome of TIDE Sprint, it builds trust among NATO Nations and Partners and is fundamental to NATO’s capability development efforts.

TIDE Sprint events occur every autumn in the USA and every spring in Europe; the events improve Alliance and Partner Nations’ interoperability by turning ideas into actionable outcomes.

A key element of this TIDE Sprint was the Federated Mission Networking concept that improves the operational effectiveness of Allied forces by allowing them to immediately connect and operate together rather than in weeks or even months. There are 34 Allied and Partner Nations that agree and implement the Federated Mission Networking specifications needed to communicate, train and operate, ensuring that NATO maintains its ‘edge’ over potential adversaries. Most recently, as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Eastern Europe, thanks to the Federated Mission Networking initiative, United Kingdom, Canadian and Polish battlegroups are deploying and operating capabilities on their communications networks much faster than previously thought possible.

How TIDE Sprint Contributes to International Security

The growing importance of cyber resulted in a recent declaration by NATO that Cyber Space would be a separate domain of operations. The resulting roadmap allows Nations to prepare their capabilities to counter the growing cyber threats faced by NATO on a daily basis. This TIDE Sprint was an opportunity for Allies to understand how federating Cyber Defence would greatly enhance their situational awareness and allow them to prepare for and counter a cyber threat against an Alliance or Partner Nation. Industry experts who took part in a NATO Industry Forum workshop to address the challenge and benefits of federating National cyber capabilities supplemented the Cyber Track.

“Logistics is not everything, but everything is nothing without Logistics”, with this statement Admiral Manfred Neilson, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Transformation set the stage to address challenges in the field of Logistics. Specialists discussed Additive Manufacturing (or 3D Printing) to explore how this technology would revolutionise operations far beyond the field of logistics. Once again, federated interoperability must be designed into national additive manufacturing capabilities if NATO and its Allies are to exploit the potential of this technology to stay ahead of its rivals. In concluding his keynote speech, Admiral Nielson stressed the enormous long-term cost savings of federating interoperability: “In order to achieve more, without increased spending, and to be more coherent and unified, without duplication, we at Allied Command Transformation see the need to facilitate and institutionalise persistent coordination between Allies.”

Future TIDE Sprint events will continue to improve and align NATO’s capability development roadmaps, delivering faster, better and earlier interoperability that is designed, not retro-fitted when it is more expensive.

Photo Gallery