The just concluded NATO exercise Dynamic Manta (DYMA) 24 included units, sailors and airmen from nine NATO nations: surface ships from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Türkiye and the US: submarines from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Türkiye and the US; and Maritime Patrol Aircraft from Canada, Germany, Greece, Türkiye, UK and the US.

The significance of the 11th iteration of this exercise series was that it remains the largest and most complex submarine exercise in this Mediterranean region. And while DYMA 24 was a live event, exercise coordinators are eyeing the inclusion of a virtual context in future iterations. 

Interoperability and Partnership

DYMA is a NATO-led advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise aiming to practice, demonstrate and refine the Alliance’s continued adaptation to new security challenges. A spokesperson from Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) told MS&T this March 8, the exercise aims at ensuring NATO crews are able to respond to threats posed by sub-surface forces and demonstrates that the Alliance stands ready to defend all Allies. “DYMA will improve our forces capacity to work together effectively as an alliance and with our partners and develop interoperability in ASW domain.”

The exercise took place mainly off the coast of Sicily. Allied navy units from nine nations took part in the challenging training with the opportunity to improve their skills in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare until March 8.

Many commentators in main-stream defense and security media outlets opine that the US and many of its allies lost a step or two in their ASW prowess during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars of the last several decades, when national military departments’ funding priorities and policy focus were on ground warfare.           

As the MARCOM spokesperson also noted, ASW is an all-arms mission. While the coordination between ships, submarines, helicopters and aircraft can be difficult, ASW remains the most effective way to find and track submarines – thus the imperative of this major live training event to learn and sharpen skills across and this warfare domain. The scope of DYMA 24 went beyond individual and unit skills, but more importantly focused on higher-order, joint and combined, training, with the spokesperson noting, “DYMA will improve our forces capacity to work together effectively as an alliance and with our partners and develop interoperability in ASW domain.” 

Among the differentiators between the 2024 iteration of the exercise and earlier events, the spokesperson pointed out, “for only the second time since this exercise began in 2013, our submarine assets are working with Special Operations Forces, delivering an incredible teamwork and coordination between the Greek Special Forces and an Italian navy submarine.”

Eyeing a Virtual Construct 

There was no virtual training during DYMA 2024. Yet, MARCOM conducted Exercise Dynamic Mirage, hosted by Germany, this January. “This was the first live virtual constructive training exercise, increasing interoperability between Allies in the virtual domain. It will no doubt feed into virtual training opportunities in the future,” the spokesperson added. 

Strengthening Multi-Domain Operations  

MS&T has recently focused on efforts to train for multi-domain operations and DYMA 2024 is another instance of nations and this alliance expanding their training readiness beyond one warfare domain into an MDO construct. Indeed, the spokesperson added, “Developing our collective skills in anti-surface warfare contributes directly to the NATO Deter and Defense concept by improving our ability to ensure a comprehensive maritime situation awareness from sea-bed to space.”

And beyond MDO, DYMA 24 enhanced NATO’s overall readiness posture. 

The MARCOM spokesperson concluded, NATO’s maritime power lies in the ability of the Standing Forces to rapidly join with high readiness, high capability national forces to deliver effects when and where needed, as we have demonstrated this past year with the activation of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.  

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