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US Army partnerships in the Arctic Circle result in success of exercise "Thunder Cloud"

By Spc. Joshua Thorne September 21, 2021

ANDOYA, Norway -- The U.S. Army's newly activated 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force, and 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade, converged with allies and partners to test and expand modernization efforts Sept. 9-20, 2021.

The exercise - "Thunder Cloud," tested high-altitude balloons, sensor to shooter capabilities, and long-range precision fires to experiment with new warfighting methods. Thunder Cloud was the first exercise of its kind and the first of the newly activated 2nd MDTF.

"Thunder Cloud is about three things: modernization, partnership, and readiness...part of multi-domain operations is finding the new sensor's best shooter, so this asset here is a unique way to conduct targeting," said Lt. Col. Dave Henderson, commander, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade.

Partnerships made Thunder Cloud a success in the Arctic Circle

"Operating in the High North gives us a great opportunity to exercise with our allies, partners, and other services. Thunder Cloud is important to [the High North] specifically because we are looking to operationalize the stratosphere," said Col. Samuel Ybarra, G3, U.S. Army Europe and Africa.

Commercial partners, like Raven Aerostar, enabled modernization efforts across the force by providing new technology to the U.S. Army.

Raven Aerostar provided high-altitude balloons, and launched the balloons into the stratosphere as a coordination effort for data on weather patterns and targeting coordinates.

2nd MDTF synchronizes efforts across domains to deliver joint freedom of action

"The 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force brings a series of capabilities that span land, air, sea and space. We are out here to experiment in a cross-domain live-fire exercise," said Lt. Col. Nicholas Stout, with 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force.

Two of the domains, land and space, were explored during Thunder Cloud and included the concept of long-range precision fires and high-altitude balloons. Integration of organic long range precision fires highlighted technology modernization efforts to develop fire strategies across NATO forces.

Thunder Cloud prioritized advancements within FA units and long-range precision fires

Andøya Space and the Norwegian military hosted the U.S. Army effort by facilitating location and support on the ground. Collaboration between Andøya Space, the Norwegian military, and the 2nd Multi-Domain Task Force allowed the U.S. Army to modernize its tactics and warfighting capabilities.

"Andøya Space Defence has had the great pleasure to plan and execute a complex and challenging operation in Northern Norway with both our U.S. friends and the Andøya airbase. The operation has been a success from our view, and there have also been important learning points," said Tony Martin Klæboe, Andøya Space project manager.

The U.S. and its allies and partners are committed to facing emerging threats, and modernizing the force is essential in optimizing lethality and moving the joint force into the future.

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