The EU is conducting its first-ever live military exercises (MILEX) from the Rota naval base in Southern Spain, as part of its crisis response force. The exercise involves 2,800 personnel, 25 aircraft, 6 ships, space, cyber assets, and special operations forces to plan and execute a landing ship attack, secure and control the seaport, and deploy land forces to rescue trapped civilians. The exercise is part of the first-ever EU military crisis management exercise (MILEX23) taking place over a week at the Rota Naval Base in Cádiz, Spain.
The exercise aims to test the bloc’s future 5,000-strong Rapid Deployment Capacity (RDC), established by the EU’s Strategic Compass, the bloc’s first military strategy endorsed by member states in March 2022. The RDC re-shapes the existing EU battlegroups, a rotating on-call force composed of member states’ armed forces. EU member states have not deployed EU-led forces in crisis situations due to political will, instead relying on NATO or ad hoc coalitions.
Recent events, such as the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of Kabul, have emphasized the need for a home-coordinated European force for crisis response. The force is set to be operational by 2025 and could also be used to deliver humanitarian assistance, such as in the Gaza Strip. The EU aims to establish a fully operational Military Planning and Conduct Capability (MPCC) by 2025 as the EU’s command and control structure, becoming the full-fledged EU military headquarters.
Exercise participants will test the EU’s readiness to respond quickly in the initial phase of a stabilization operation, deploying troops to reestablish order in a destabilized environment. The force is modular and used in different phases of an operation, testing other scenarios for potential deployment of rapid deployment capacity, such as rescue and evacuation, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. The next EU exercise is expected to take place in the second half of 2024, with the support of Germany.