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EDA’s largest ever counter-IED exercise kicks off in Spain with over 1,000 military personnel

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BISON COUNTER 2023 (BC23), the EDA-supported multinational live exercise bringing together the Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) community kicked off today in Spain, across two locations: Zaragoza for ground activities and Cartagena for underwater activities. A total of 1,000 military staff from 12 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Czechia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Finland), as well as observers from Sweden, Latvia, Romania and the United States participate in this year’s event hosted by the Spanish Armed Forces. 300 vehicles, 28 K-9 dogs and five speedboats will also be deployed during the exercise.

The general objective of this series of live exercises is to improve European and Allied C-IED capabilities in their fight against a constantly evolving IED threat in military and counter-terrorism operations, during expeditionary military operations and in countering terrorism within its borders, by enabling the individual EU Member States to act in a more coherent, interoperable, and resilient way.

Full spectrum C-IED concept

The exercise is organised in a way that allow for adequate Force Integration and Battle Staff Training before the start of the main phase of the Command Post and Field Exercise, which enhances the conditions for the sharing of information, lessons learned and best practice among multinational teams, bridging gaps and establishing the close human ties needed to foster meaningful cooperation among Member States - an interconnected federation of EU experts in the field of C-IED.

The aim of executing the BC23 exercise is to specifically train the full spectrum of C-IED concept in a multi-level (from tactical to operational) and a multi-domain scenario where all C-IED efforts have to be synchronised to succeed. The whole exercise is embedded in the intelligence cycle which allows interconnection among all levels. In addition, dedicated teams specialized in the following enabler capabilities are involved:

  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD),
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED),
  • K-9 Dogs Units Training,
  • Underwater works,
  • Weapons Intelligence Team (WIT),
  • Route Clearance (RCP),
  • Combined Joint Task Force HQ.

BC23 built upon projects and previous editions

BISON COUNTER is today the largest and most relevant EU exercise of the C-IED community. After 2013 (The Netherlands), 2016 (Sweden) and 2021 (Italy), it is the fourth time this exercise is organized under the auspices of EDA.

As in previous editions, EDA is closely involved in the organization and running of BISON COUNTER 23 which integrates EDA projects such as the Joint Deployable Exploitation and Analysis Laboratory (JDEAL), the European Centre for Manual Neutralization Capabilities (ECMAN) and the Military Search Capability Building (MSCB).

Constantly changing IED threat

The IED threat is constantly changing and evolving due to technological progress, changing conflict parties and their intentions. In order to meet this changing threat and adequately prepare the troops for the scenarios of tomorrow, the Member States and the EDA must not let up in these efforts.

Although the capability shortfall in the context of C-IED (CDP 2018) has been reduced by continuous EDA projects, there is still a great need for these projects to support Member States in keeping the operational capability in order and not to give up this advantage again or, in the best case, to expand it further.

It is the ambition of EDA's contributing Member States to pursue the series of Bison Counter exercises at least two additional editions of Bison Counter in 2025 and 2027 are foreseen. Another ambition of the project is to seek inter-agency cooperation among all relevant C-IED stakeholders in the EU, including national and multinational Centres of Excellence, law enforcement and Industry.