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NEWS | May 24, 2023

Allies maintain, sustain in the North Atlantic and High North

By Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Barker

“An Army marches on its stomach.” Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with this oft-quoted aphorism of the importance of logistics in military operations. While armies may indeed march on their stomachs, navies sail on their stomachs, their fuel reserves, and their critical parts.
While operating at sea, sometimes hundreds of nautical miles from the nearest land, and sometimes in challenging environmental conditions like those of the High North, ships require food, fuel, and parts from replenishment vessels.
During exercise Formidable Shield 2023, these replenishment vessels came in the form of RFA Tidesurge and Spanish oiler Patiño. Together, the ships conducted more than 20 replenishments-at-sea, delivering 5 million liters of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and 48 pallets of spare parts and stores to the NATO Allied ships taking part in the exercise. This sustainment allowed the ships to remain in the exercise “fight.”
“Patiño has had a very busy schedule during Formidable Shield 2023 as we have continued to replenish the multinational maritime force, allowing them to complete the work they need to do while underway,” said Spanish Navy LT Ignacio González-Tablas, Patiño’s operations officer. “NATO interoperability shines through in everything our Allies do, and that includes working together to keep our units on station and on mission.”
While Patiño and Tidesurge delivered parts and fuel at sea, the multinational commander, task group (CTG) integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), embarked aboard the Spanish frigate ESPS Blas De Lezo (F 103), and the logistics team at Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) headquarters, monitored the status of logistics throughout the force, directing these sustainment initiatives to keep the force topped up and in the action.
It was not just replenishment ships who kept the fleet in fighting shape, though. From ground-based resupply in the Andøya phase of the exercise, to big-wing air tanking in support of Allied fighter aircraft, and Allied helicopters conducting personnel transfers and delivering parts and supplies via vertical onboard delivery (VOD) and vertical replenishment (VERTREP), logistics is a true all hands effort.
“Our Allied helicopter crews delivered time critical components to several vessels throughout the exercise, underscoring their utility and our combined capacity to sustain ships underway,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Dylan Kelly, Formidable Shield’s Helicopter Element Commander (HEC). “Flight crews regularly demonstrated their ability to safely and effectively conduct multinational crossdeck operations, assisting the force to meet their logistical demands in the challenging and fast-paced maritime environment.”
As Formidable Shield draws to a close, participating ships and aircraft will leave this multinational force and carry on other national and Alliance tasking. Regardless of where they operate, however, there will be a team of logisticians standing at the ready to keep them marching.
Formidable Shield is a biennial integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) exercise involving a series of live-fire events against subsonic, supersonic, and ballistic targets, incorporating multiple Allied ships, ground forces, and aviation forces working across battlespaces to deliver effects.
Formidable Shield demonstrates Alliance cohesion, cutting-edge capacity and capability, and NATO Allies’ combined commitment to the deterrence and defense of NATO territory.
For imagery, press articles, and other products related to Formidable Shield, please visit, and