By Humphrey carter
SPAIN'S 2.200-strong spearhead of NATO's cutting-edge NRF Response Force started one of the country's most important military exercises in Majorca yesterday. After ten days of preparations, with over 500 trucks, tons of military hardware and equipment being shipped to Majorca from Valencia for the exercise, which involves the 2.200 crack Spanish troops on the ground and tens of thousands of “cyber” NATO troops, Operation HIREX 03 got under way yesterday. Apart from being one of the most technologically advanced exercises the Spanish military has every undertaken, it is also the first time the headquarters of Spain's NATO Rapid Deployable Corps has carried out a full deployment from its base near Valencia. Spain is the biggest contributor of troops to the newly formed NRF force with the 2.200 troops currently in Majorca.
The NRF is a key part of NATO's drive to provide the answer to post-September 11 security threats all over the world.
The NRF, described by NATO's commanders as being “agile, lethal and ready to be deployed to hotspots within five days,” is expected to grow to around 20.000 troops and become fully operational by October 2006. The HIREX 03 exercise being carried out in Majorca, is putting NATO's requirements of the NRF to the test.
Using state-of-the-art technology, HIREX 03 involves Spain's Rapid Deployable Corps being deployed with all its organic assets to a far off operations theatre to help the democratic country “Argos” which, against the UN's wishes, has been attacked by a neighbouring, fanatical and undemocratic country. Although the NRF is not ready for high-intensity combat, NATO officials have said that it could still be deployed for non-combat rescue operations, to help in a humanitarian crisis or as a show of force to deter aggression. The current NRF “prototype,” although under the command of Turkey, is spearheaded by Spain with the largest troop committment. Spain will command the maritime corp of the “cutting edge” force which will also include NATO airforces. Operation HIREX 03 is due to be completed tomorrow with the “emergency crisis” in “Argos” having been resolved.
The operation is being controlled from four command centres, Porto Pi, Cabo Blanco, Son San Joan airforce base and General Asensio barracks.
Because of the importance of the exercise, military observers from NATO-member states have travelled to Majorca to watch the operation being carried out.

On Monday, the rapid reaction force will start withdrawing from Majorca and on October 29, re-deploy to its Valencia headquarters.


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