Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that its Joint Force Command Norfolk (JFCNF) has achieved initial operational capability (IOC).

A ceremony was held to mark the milestone in Norfolk, Virginia, US. It is the first Nato headquarters for the Atlantic since 2003. 

It was formally activated by Nato’s North Atlantic Council (NAC) as a Nato military body in July 2019. Full operational capability is expected to be declared next year. 

The new Atlantic Command was established to safeguard the sea lanes between North America and Europe.  

Stoltenberg said: “Nato is a transatlantic Alliance and the North Atlantic is vital for the security of Europe.  

“Our new Atlantic Command will ensure crucial routes for reinforcements and supplies from North America to Europe remain secure.” 

The Joint Force Command Norfolk is co-located with the US Second Fleet and will be spearheaded by US Vice-Admiral Andrew Lewis.  

It will provide command arrangements for Allied forces, preserve situational awareness, carry out exercises and develop operational plans for a wide geographic area from the US East Coast to Greenland-Iceland-UK and the Arctic. 

However, Nato’S daily maritime operations will be operated from the Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in the UK. 

In June 2018, a decision was taken by Nato defence ministers to modify the Alliance’s command structure. The change covered a new Atlantic command in Norfolk and a command for support and logistics in Ulm, Germany. 

This centre at Norfolk joins the two existing Joint Forces Commands of Nato, which are located in Brunssum, Netherlands, and Naples, Italy. 

In June, Nato launched the Dynamic Mongoose 2020 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) exercise off the coast of Iceland.