Germany-Netherlands to test joint Patriot operations
As the US focuses on Asia, calls for greater European cooperation
17 October 2016
By: Debalina Ghoshal

In August 2016, it was reported that Germany and the Netherlands, two NATO countries, would conduct a joint test of the Patriot air defense system. The system would be tested for deployment in Poland and the Baltic states due to increased muscle flexing by Russia in Eastern Europe. Germany and Netherlands had previously deployed the Patriot system in Turkey, but in 2015, Germany decided to withdraw its batteries.  Early 2015, the Netherlands also withdrew its Patriot systems, which were replaced by the Spanish Patriot systems.

Brigadier General Michael Gschossmann of the German military stated that the joint operations would enable NATO to assure security in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland, who were apprehensive of Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons in the Kalingrad region, bordering these countries. This, the countries believed, is a breach of Russia’s 1991 pledge that it would keep the Baltic region free of nuclear weapons.

Gschossmann believed that such a move would “would send a political signal,” especially as tensions in Eastern Europe were aggravated owing to Crimean crisis. In the recent past, the Baltic States, which during the Cold War were satellite states of the Soviet Union, have also joined NATO along with Poland. Therefore, under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO countries are obligated to protect these countries.

The exercise was reported to be held in early October, 2016 and involve the firing of several interceptors, and use a Surface-to-Air Missile Operations Centre (SAMOC) designed to enhance situational awareness, monitoring capabilities, speed of command weapons system effectiveness and survivability of its own and coalition forces against aerial threats. In October 2016, the Netherlands was reported to have provided Raytheon a contract to upgrade its Patriot air defense systems. Once the exercise is over, the German and the Dutch militaries would then declare the bi-national Air and Missile Defense Task Force fully operational and ready for future NATO deployments.

The Netherlands and Germany also operate the SMART-L EWC on their air defense frigates. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) “is extending the lifetime of its Patriot air-defense systems with an upgrade program and their deployability through co-operation with the German Luftwaffe.” This would include acquiring Modern Man Station (MMS) that would be used to identify and display airborne objects and “track and engage enemy aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles.”

This air and missile defense cooperation is a component of a broader project called Project Apollo. The joint operations were to be conducted in Crete, Greece and include German, Dutch and US forces, plus a US destroyer equipped with the Aegis missile defense system. According to Gschossmann, the Dutch and German forces would employ “a new concept of operations” which is said to be the “first of its kind in Europe.” The United States already plans to deploy its missile defense system, the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA), in Poland as its third stage. The German-Netherlands Patriot deployment would enhance Poland’s capability to defend itself against incoming missile threats.

Poland is already working on a missile defense system under the WISLA medium range air and missile defense program. Poland has also decided to purchase Patriot systems for its indigenous missile defense capability. Both the Netherlands and Poland have for the moment opted for the Patriot system rather than the Medium Extended range Air Defence System (MEADS), as both felt that they needed a defense system that was already fielded and tried and tested. Most of these countries already operate the Patriot air defense system and therefore, there would only be a need to upgrade the systems in order to work in close coordination. According to Raytheon, the makers of the Patriot system, the next-generation Patriot system will have an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Gallium Nitride (GaN) radar and an open command and control architecture.

This German-Dutch defense cooperation is growing from strength to strength. In February this year, their armed forces agreed to deepen their naval ties with the German Sea Battalion being under the Royal Dutch Navy until 2018. In April 2016, there were reports that the Dutch Army was slowly integrating with the German Army. The 11th Air Mobile Brigade has been under German command since 2014, while this year, an armored and mechanized brigade became officially part of the German Army.

The shift in the focus of the United States to increasingly concentrate on Asia and the Pacific has seen calls for greater cooperation to be promoted between European countries.

Debalina Ghoshal is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Human Security Studies, Hyderabad specializing in nuclear, missile and missile defense issues.


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