Tactical Data Link Software and Training Experts

NATO Interface Control Officer Course

NCS has completed the delivery of the NATO Interface Control Officer (NICO) Training Program to 12 officers and NCOs from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Norway. This Expert-Level Training Program, most recently hosted by the Netherlands Data Link Management Cell (NDMC), meets the unique training requirements of operational personnel at Data Link Management Centre’s within NATO. The NDMC Commander, Major Bram Remmelzwaal, opened the course to personnel from other nations in an effort to foster cooperation and collaboration amongst nations. Moreover, the integration of multiple services and countries creates a crosspollination of knowledge and experience not available in any other training environment.


The NATO Interface Control Officer (NICO) Program addresses the need for a formal, documented, Expert-Level Training Program for personnel within NATO involved in Tactical Data Link operations at the advanced and / or management level. The NICO Program ensures that personnel receive training of the highest possible standard, while instituting a graduated qualification scale, managed by the nation, not the training provider.

Program Justification

National Data Link Organizations invest a significant amount of time, effort, and money developing robust Tactical Data Link Planning, Design, and Management capabilities. Previously, the only formalized Advanced Tactical Data Link (TDL) Training Program was the Joint Interface Control Officer (JICO) Program. The JICO Training Program, which is internationally recognized as the "Gold Standard" for high-quality Advanced TDL Training, is however; understandably U.S. centric in its training materials and approach.

The multitude of disparate systems, wide and varying platform and national capabilities, as well as the use of different Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) precludes the practicality of system, service, or even country centric training programs. Commonality in training may also help ensure interoperability, cooperation, and collaboration between services and nations, while simultaneously reducing the overall cost of training. To achieve this, the focus should shift to the acquisition of a common level of knowledge and capabilities, allowing tailored On-the-Job Training (OJT) to meet unit specific requirements.

In a measure designed to assist in the development and management of a training system that supports Network Planners, Managers, and Designers at the Expert-Level, NCS has created the NICO Training Program, which teaches the core knowledge and skills required to manage TDLs at the highest level. By standardizing the core capabilities, system and program specific training is avoided, ensuring commonality across a wider spectrum, allowing a common NATO skills package to be more readily developed, managed, and delivered.

Program Management, Risk-Reduction, and Cost

The expense and risk required to create and maintain a high-quality training program that develops the knowledge and skills necessary to perform advanced TDL Network Planning, Design and Management is significant. When you consider the rapidly changing nature of warfare, emerging technologies, constant personnel turnover, and the requirement to program manage the training in order to ensure accuracy and relevance, the issue becomes even more complex. The NICO Training Program is developed, managed, and maintained by NCS, thus reducing the risk and overall cost for any nation, while maintaining 100% conformity to the latest NATO Standards and Procedures. The NCS Quality Management System (QMS) maintains meticulous records of every course review, update, change, and the references used for its development. Further, in order to ensure that the materials contain the content desired by the nations, NCS is establishing a NICO website specifically to support the requirements of this training. NICO graduates and National Data Link Management Centre’s will be able to logon to the site and provide course content recommendations. Course comments and recommendations will be open for comment by other nations to determine if a change to the material adds value to the overall program.

Course Description

The NICO Training Program trains students to a very-high skill-level tailored specifically to meet the unique requirements of NATO Nations. Further, the NICO Training Program has implemented the latest active training techniques, designed to increase comprehension, retention, and competence. Training sessions are a mixture of the following:

  • Academic training sessions
  • Hands-on training sessions
  • Team exercises
  • Team briefings
  • Student products (e.g. OPTASK Link)
  • Daily testing
  • Practical evaluations

The NICO Training Program combines eight complementary training courses (additional courses that meet the requirements of nations with a multi-TDL capability (Link 11, Link 22, etc.) are available). The program structure ensures that each course is a bridge to the next. NICO courses include the following:

  • Link 16 / JTIDS / MIDS Expert Course
    • Link 16 / JTIDS / MIDS Advanced
    • Link 16 Operations
    • Introduction to JREAP
  • JTIDS / MIDS Planning
  • JTIDS / MIDS Network Design
  • OPTASK Link
  • Frequency Management
  • JTIDS / MIDS Network Management

NATO Interface Control Officer Certification Levels

NCS understands that achieving the knowledge and skill level necessary to operate at the highest levels might start with training, but it does not end with training. This is why we have developed the NICO Five-Level Program. To be clear, this is not a Five-Level Training Program. Once a student graduates as a Level-One NICO, the organization assumes responsibility for managing the NICO qualification. As a free service to NICO graduates, NCS will issue higher-level certifications when their parent command certifies that the organization’s requirements are satisfied. While NCS can offer assistance in follow-on training and certifications of on-the-job training, normally the parent command will perform this role.

NICO Level-1

"Trained" – Individual has completed the NICO Training Program with a final score of at least 80%.

NICO Level-2

"Trained and Certified" - Individual that has completed NICO Level-1 and subsequently completed On-the-Job Training (OJT) requirements and an operational evaluation.

NICO Level-3

"Trained and Certified (Active)" - Individual that has completed NICO Level-2 that is actively filling a Tactical Data Link management position.

NICO Level-4

"Expert" – Individual that has completed NICO Level-2 that has served as a NICO Level-3 for at least 24 months.

NICO Level-5

"Expert (Active)" – Individual that has completed NICO Level-4 that is actively filling a Tactical Data Link management position.

The next NICO Course is 8‐26 March 2010 at the Joint Data Link Management Organization (JDLMO), RAF High Wycombe, UK. For more information about this course, or to enquire about hosting a NICO Training Program, please email director@network-centric.com.