The Spanish Navy prepares to combat fake news in FLOTEX 21 exercises

These manoeuvres are the most important of the year


The Navy's annual advanced level exercise, FLOTEX 21 (FL21), with real participation since 2019, and held these days at the Sierra del Retín camp in Barbate, will implement new capabilities to adapt to the facets of modern Information Warfare, in the fight against disinformation or dissemination of false news (fake news), and which will cover aspects related to social networks, cyber warfare and public information.

The commander of the High Readiness Maritime Headquarters (CGMAD), Vice Admiral José María Núñez Torrente, on board the aircraft carrier "Juan Carlos I", has assessed the need to operate with the best guarantees, focusing efforts in the areas of Personnel Recovery thanks to the air capacity, provided by helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, targeting and information warfare in a refinement of procedures to make the training exercise more fluid. "Our objective is to intervene with the best possible back-up, including good legal advice, which will enable us to carry out detailed work".


Certainly, a supposedly conditioned and filtered flow of information, in a creative process of fake news, can lose the war by creating confusion, which is why the preparation to counter fake news is a catch-all and is conceived as a novel challenge, currently in a learning phase. The dissemination of propaganda or disinformation is used as a weapon to demoralise or manipulate the enemy. "We have to be prepared to counter fake news," added CGMAD commander José María Núñez Torrente.

This being the case, the viralisation of misleading content could be assessed as an eventuality or incident, detected from the Marine Corps Headquarters in San Fernando, which would require the effort of a rapid rethinking and effective training in which communication offices are working. "We have to train a lot to define the precision of the targets without collateral damage. It's a very detailed job because we are the best at intervening at sea. Our soldiers will have cameras built into their helmets to avoid possible illegal accusations," added José María Núñez.

In the same vein, FLOTEX 21 is intended to implement, assess and evaluate the capabilities of the Naval Force, integrating the different units and operational staffs.

The Vice Admiral Commander of the High Readiness Maritime Headquarters (CGMAD), José María Núñez Torrente, stated that the exercise, in Livex format, is a great effort for the Navy to use all the resources that allow it to recreate the situation as close to reality as possible. The priorities are the safety of the crews involved; the use of an appropriate procedure, with clean and rapid action, together with risk assessment; the maintenance of COVID standards; making the most of the resources to be in the best conditions and closing the cycle, "with a good critical spirit", that is, analysing what has been done well and badly, with lessons learned. The international press has witnessed the implementation phase of the exercise which will last for a total of 12 days. "We have months left to analyse and improve," said Vice Admiral José María Núñez.

The FL21 manoeuvres have allowed training in naval operations, including counter-mining, anti-submarine, surface, anti-aircraft and amphibious warfare, with the participation of 3. 632 troops and units from the Projection Group, 31 and 41 Squadrons, units from the Mine Counter Measures (MCM) Flotilla, Aircraft Flotilla, Maritime Action Force, Marine Infantry Brigade Tercio de Armada and with the collaboration of the Land and Air Armies, as well as the international units integrated in EUROMARFOR, such as the Italian frigate, Rizzo. "The scenario created with imaginary countries allows us to affirm that we are an instrument of the Spanish government that contributes to peace, security and stability". "In a time of uncertainty, all flanks must be covered," was how the CGMAD Chief of Staff, José María Fernández de la Puente, began his speech to the media, giving a brief overview of FL21, what is being done in this training exercise and who they really are. The different units have been carrying out the exercise from land-based facilities or on ships in port.


From fiction to the surprise of real scenarios

In a low-intensity peacekeeping scenario, invented to perfection with fictitious countries, the enemy is a terrorist group that influences certain ethnic minorities, equipped with anti-aircraft weapons, underwater obstacles, and with the added complexity: the influence exercised by a foreign nation over an ungovernable population with a defined religious creed. "We are therefore talking about a hybrid war with the objectives of withdrawing from the mission, keeping the deployed units operational, rescuing the hostages (blue helmets in danger) and zero casualties", José María Fernández de la Puente explained.

Aware of the expeditionary nature of the Navy, a total of 14 ships, 12 aircraft, 8 LCMS, 97 vehicles and 760 infantrymen constitute the deployment that has allowed the execution phase of the exercise that the foreign press has witnessed.


In a real world, the high level of preparation of the three armies is still in force, and when alluding to real scenarios, this correspondent raised the question about a possible deployment of the Navy in La Palma due to the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, José María Núñez Torrente alluded to the contribution of an initial support with the use of a hydrographic vessel in the development of capabilities, "all studied" and according to the needs, which are thousands. For the moment," he said, "there is logistical support for La Palma and hydrographic support, with the Malaspina vessel. "We can provide much more if the government gives us the appropriate orders. It's a question of them calling us, they have asked for little more".


Another of the questions answered by the Vice Admiral Commander of the High Readiness Maritime Headquarters (CGMAD), José María Núñez Torrente, was the future of the Harrier vertical take-off combat aircraft, or the delivery of new LH90 helicopters, to which he replied that good tools are needed because the threat is growing, and the Navy is suffering from the delay in the delivery of the LH90s.


In a brief interview conducted by this correspondent with Lieutenant Pedro López Montaya, a 31-year-old Harrier AV8B pilot, he said that it was not foreseen that this fighter aircraft could be used to divert the lava from the volcano on La Palma, "a scenario that has not been contemplated". In an operation as specific as the one on La Palma, the Harrier's participation is null and void because the task for which it is designed is quite different.

Carmen Chamorro, director of the CIP and ACPE and SEI graduate in International Relations