Aim: The NATO SOF Air Mission Challenge stimulates nations in the process of developing their own SOF air/aviation assets and crews, as well as allows them to share experiences, mindsets, and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to improve their quality and interoperability.
The Challenge is also a unique and low-cost training event to build up mainly SOATU-level experience in a multinational environment. As a new feature, the Challenge has been reorganized to optionally provide more specific training for SOATG staff, increasing the opportunities for framework nations to enhance their experience in a multinational, mentored environment, with further emphasis on air-land integration with the active participation of land and maritime SOALI operators.
Objective: SOATU and SOALI operators, along with SOATG staff will plan, coordinate, rehearse, execute, and debrief a air-heavy special operation, using SOF air mission planning processes and NATO CIS/IT tools and checklists. Operators will execute the missions in a simulated environment by allowing them to validate their air mission planning and TTP. Special operations task unit (SOTU) operators and staff will plan, lead, and execute integrated missions with RW, FW, and ISR assets. Actual intelligence and real-life databases will be used and blended with a virtual environment.
The NATO SOF Air Mission Challenge will provide a 72- and a 48-hour planning cycle using NATO CIS/IT tools and checklists. The first days are dedicated for respective attendees to prepare and train for their roles (e.g. staff, planner, pilots). Crew composition is focused on SOATU cockpit crews. Preferably full crews to form an SOATU but with possibilities to mix crews. The use of own or generic assets depends on participant demands.
Simulator exercise puts less focus on flying skills and capabilities and more attention on critical thinking, problem solving, communication, interoperability, TTP, and mindset. Examples of available assets are SOATU RW medium (CH-47 type) and light (Griffin type), SOATU FW (C-130 type), ISR (R1 Shadow type) and direct support RW (AH-64 type), along with numerous ground vehicles, equipment and armaments. Experienced external SOF air mentors from across the Alliance will be invited to guide and support the participants. AMCs and ground force will be selected or can be offered by nations.
Target Audience: This training is designed for semi-experienced and experienced SOATU and SOALI operators/planners and SOATG staff. Some academics and pre-mission training will be given, but it is expected that participants will have some experience in the NATO SOF air domain (e.g. courses, exercises). AMCs, SOTU staff, and ground force commanders can be offered or will be requested or selected by the instructors beforehand.
Requirements: A NATO SECRET clearance is required for this course. Crews, staff, and operators should have some experience in SOF air mission planning and execution (e.g. courses, exercises), possibly conducted by NSHQ (SOAPC, AMCC, SOATGC)
Additional Information: The event will occur two times per year and may be requested for specific work-up training for exercises or certification. The NSHQ will send invitation letters for each event so that nations can request/offer specific crews, roles, and positions. This is not a normal course for individual participants. The point of contact on the website must be contacted to have participants and units selected or allowed.
The event will be organized in the ADP classrooms at SHAPE (Casteau), see driving directions in the joining instructions.