What is a COE?

A COE is a nationally or multi-nationally sponsored entity, which offers recognised expertise and experience for the benefit of the Alliance, especially in support of transformation. It provides opportunities to enhance education and training, to improve interoperability and capabilities, to assist in doctrine development and/or to test and validate concepts through experimentation.

What is the Mission and the responsibilities of COE CSW?

The COE CSW mission is to provide joint and combined subject matter expertise in the field of operation in confined and shallow waters
in order to
support NATO’s military transformation, the Participants and other Customers thus enhancing the Alliance’s interoperability in the field of operation in CSW.

COE CSW will concentrate and further develop NATO’s expertise and capabilities to conduct maritime operations in the specific areas of confined and shallow waters. The specific responsibilities will be to:

  1. As the focal point of its activities: Facilitate the development, validation and implementation of concepts and doctrines;
  2. Contribute and provide input to the lessons learned processes as well as to experiments and modelling and simulation efforts;
  3. Complement and contribute to NATO’s efforts in the field of exercises, education and training:
  4. Assess the requirements, the present status and the future development of operations in confined and shallow waters in a joint and combined operational environment.

What does “Confined and Shallow Waters” (CSW) mean?

CSW are theatres of operation where the courses of action of both friendly and opposing forces are limited, at least due to some of the following factors:

  • Confined waters: narrow straits, jagged and rugged coastlines, archipelago-like environments with small islands, tidal areas and extensive flats and shoals, often changing in size and shape under the influence of currents and/or weather conditions. Specific geo- and hydrographical conditions affect sensor and weapon performance and thus operations.
  • Shallow waters: depth less than 200 m

Although the term “Confined and/or Shallow Waters” would be more precise, the title “Confined and Shallow Waters” was chosen for reasons of simplicity.

CSW have to be understood as a part of the littoral. This coastal zone of an ocean or sea or a lake shore zone extends from several hundred meters up to hundreds of miles on both sides of the borderline between water and land. It refers to operations in and around the littoral zone, within a certain distance of shore. Besides the geographical factors, other aspects, namely political and economic interests, are taken into regard when defining the extension of a specific littoral zone. In military operations, the littoral zone is a coastal region consisting of the seaward area from the open ocean to the shore that must be controlled to support operations ashore and the landward area inland from the shore that can be supported and defended directly from the sea.

The area of CSW does not extend as far inshore beyond the beaches as the littoral zone. However, fjord-like environments, deltas or streams – even vast inland waters – can be regarded as typical for CSW although they might extend deep beyond the coastline.

When was COE CSW founded?

The idea for Centres of Excellence (COEs) originated in May 2003 and was further refined into a concept by the NATO Military Committee in December 2003. Once the idea and the concept were firmly established, the accreditation was next. In 2004, the Alliance established COE Accreditation Criteria and on the 01 June 2005 the first NATO COE was accredited.

The COE CSW was established initially as a national German organisation in 2006. On 03 October 2008, Germany as the ‘Framework Nation’ along with the ‘Sponsoring Nations’ Greece, The Netherlands, and Turkey, signed the Operational and Functional Memorandum of Understanding in Norfolk, Virginia (USA).

The COE CSW was accredited in March 2009 and awarded the status of an “International Military Organisation” by the North Atlantic Council. The COE CSW Inauguration Ceremony took place on 26 May 2009 in Kiel. Poland joined the COE CSW in the summer 2009. As of 2011, Finland joined as a "Contributing Partner". In 2013, Italy joined the COE CSW as a further "Sponsoring Nation".

Who is the Director of the COE CSW?

The Director is Rear Admiral (lh) DEU N Jan C. Kaack, who is double hatted as DIR COE CSW and Commander DEU Flotilla 1.

What was the reason for Germany to establish a maritime COE?

The idea for a COE generally comes from two main sources, NATO or an Alliance Nation. If the idea comes from NATO, it is generally a result of an identified shortfall in NATO’s capabilities. If the idea comes from an Alliance Nation, it can come from the operational, tactical or strategic level. Some ideas have even come from the political level.

Given the operational background of the German Navy, traditionally operating in the Danish Straits, the Central and Eastern Baltic as well as in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea to include the fjord environment, the corresponding expertise has been preserved and further developed in the past two decades.

With the employment of small, flexible units, the German Navy has been utilising this experience in recent and current missions abroad. German fast patrol boats, mine counter measure vessels, coastal submarines, and - in a supporting role - special forces along with frigates and other assets are sailing in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, participating in Operation Active Endeavour, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Atalanta and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Within the national transformation process, the German Navy integrated all those assets ideally suited for operations in CSW in Flotilla 1, which, at the national level, provides the required expertise and support.

HQ Allied Command Transformation recognised this expertise and background and endorsed the concept of the COE CSW in late 2006.

Does COE CSW belong to NATO?

COE CSW, as a NATO accredited COE that is granted International Military Organisation (IMO) status by the NAC, is a NATO Body.

On the other hand, COE CSW is not a part of the NATO Command Structure (NCS), but forms a part of the COE network, as coordinated by HQ SACT, as well as a part of the wider framework supporting NATO Command Arrangements (NCA). Members of this NCA framework are not only other COE but also organisations like NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) or the Research & Technology Organisation (RTO), with Allied Command Transformation (ACT) coordinating related activities.

How many Nations are represented in COE CSW?

Germany is the Framework and Host Nation. Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland and Turkey are the five Sponsoring Nations whilst Finland participates as Contributing Partner. Additionally, the USA is represented within the context of the Personnel Exchange Program between the U.S. and German Navy. Denmark contributes on a National Voluntary Contribution basis and plans on formally joining the COE CSW.

Is COE CSW open to every nation/organisation?

Full membership is only possible for NATO nations, however Partner Nations like PfP, Mediterranian-dialog and International Organizations can get access within the relevant security arrangements (unclassified, releasable to PfP). The Non NATO nations who wish to participate in the COE may do so with the agreement of the SNs, but will not have a vote on the Steering Committee.

What is the structure of COE CSW?

The organisational structure of the COE CSW was designed to be a joint centre involving international participants including partner nations. The COE CSW is structured into three branches:

  • Concepts and Doctrine
  • Training and Analysis
  • Staff Organisation and External Relations

More information can be found under -> Our COE -> Structure.


What is a Steering Committee? What is its task?

  • The COE CSW Steering Committee (SC) is responsible for the direction, overall guidance and development of the COE CSW as well as for the direction of the Programme of Work including resource allocation.
  • The COE CSW SC is established by the Participants for guidance, oversight and decisions on all matters concerning the administration, policy and operation of the COE CSW. The SC is to provide principal guidance to the Director for the effective execution of his mission and it is responsible for optimising the effectiveness of the COE CSW and for prioritising the demands placed on the COE CSW.
  • The COE CSW SC is chaired by the FN. Each Sponsoring Nation has one vote in the

SC. The Director attends the meetings of the SC without a vote. Decisions of the SC must be reached unanimously. Should the SC fail to reach unanimity, the representatives of the Participants will report to their superiors to seek advice on further action to be taken.

  • HQ SACT is, and other NATO-Entities or other partners may, be invited by the

COE CSW SC to attend its meetings. As a general rule, the COE CSW SC meets at least once a year.

  • The main tasks of the COE CSW SC are to:
  1. Direct the long-term development of the COE CSW and resolve resource and organisational issues;
  2. Approve the Programme of Work,
  3. Approve the annual financial statement;
  4. Approve the yearly budget and consider as a planning guidance the medium-term financial plan;
  5. Monitor and guide the financial management of the multinational budget;
  6. Provide a forum for the discussion of issues affecting the COE CSW;
  7. Establish a single point of contact for formal external relations of the SC;
  8. Monitor the performance of mission and tasks of the COE CSW, including its funding, administration and personnel establishment;
  9. Provide guidance for the coordination of plans and policy for the development and improvement of personnel, equipment, procedures, processes and organisations of the COE CSW;
  10. Propose changes to the MOU and all Annexes to the Participants;
  11. Approve any Technical Arrangement and any changes thereto;
  12. Issue directives and guidance to the COE CSW;
  13. Approve major repair of and any other major changes in the permanent construction of infrastructure financed by COE CSW.

How many COE exist in NATO Nations?

More than 20 COEs are established or are in the process of accreditation. Among them are:

  1. Center for Analysis & Simulation for the Preparation of Air Operations (CASPOA) (France)
  2. Civil - Military Cooperation (CIMIC) COE (The Netherlands)
  3. Cold Weather Operations (CWO) COE (Norway)
  4. Combined Joint Operations from the Sea (CJOS) COE (USA)
  5. Command & Control (C2) COE (The Netherlands)
  6. Confined and Shallow Waters (CSW) COE (Germany)
  7. Cooperative Cyber Defense (CCD) COE (Estonia)
  8. Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (CIED) COE (Spain)
  9. Crisis Managment & Disaster Relief (CD&DR) COE ( Bulgaria)
  10. Defense Against Terrorism (DAT) COE (Turkey)
  11. Energy Security (ENSEC) COE (Lithuania)
  12. Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) COE (Slovakia)
  13. Human Intelligence (HUMINT) COE (Romania)
  14. Joint Air Power Competence Center (JAPCC) COE (Germany)
  15. Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological, & Nuclear Defence (JCBRN Defence) COE (Czech)
  16. Military Engineering (MILENG) COE (Germany)
  17. Military Medical (MILMED) COE (Hungary)
  18. Military Police (MP) COE (Poland)
  19. Modelling and Simulation (M&S) COE (Italy)
  20. Mountain Warfare (MW) COE (Slovenia)
  21. Naval Mine Warefare (EGUERMIN) COE (Belgium)
  22. Stability Policing (SP) COE (Italy)
  23. Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) COE (Latvia)
Contact us | © Deutsche Marine