At the Icelandic air base of Keflavik, in the Suðurnes region, about 50 kilometers southwest of the capital Reykjavík, more than 300 soldiers from 16 nations of the Atlantic Alliance were trained to update themselves on the latest and most advanced techniques for the neutralization of Improvised Explosive Ordinances (C-IEDs, Counter – Improvised Explosive Devices).
The exercise, which started on 17 September, lasted two weeks and this year’s edition was the seventeenth. The training took place in the most realistic conditions possible and simulated the reaction to a terrorist attack in which improper devices are used. The exercise was coordinated by a specialized international command center and operations were conducted in accordance with NATO international procedures.
In total, 300 experts participated in the exercise, including seven Italians, from the Operational Working Group of COM.SUB.IN (Underwater Command and Raiders).
The participants themselves have constructed about 500 improvised explosive devices, of various sizes and equipped with different activation systems, to be neutralized in underwater, naval and terrestrial environments. For their neutralization real challenges with increasing difficulties had to be overcome: the missions in the water environment were about a hundred over the two weeks and they were carried out in particularly harsh conditions that really challenged underwater equipments and operators, with water temperature around 3°C and gusty, icy wind.
The Northern Challenge is one of the most important exercises for explosives experts in Europe.