Air and Space Power in NATO – Future Vector Project

 September 2014

The Future Vector Project

General Gorenc, the JAPCC Director, formed a team of highly-respected experts to study the current state of NATO Air and Space Power in order to recommend ­viable, near-term (2020) and long-term (2040) solutions and goals that the Alliance should strive for to underpin a future robust Air and Space Power capability.

The precise application of combat power from the air has been of strategic importance to the Alliance since NATO’s inception. Time and time again, NATO and its Member Nations have turned to Joint Air Power as the first, and in some cases only, military response option. Air Power, now coupled with Space Power, continues to demonstrate its inherent ability to ‘go over not through’ with attributes of speed, reach, flexibility, and precision. These combined qualities provide NATO and National political leaders with a tool of unmatched responsiveness and flexibility, supporting the political-strategic objectives of both the Alliance and its Member Nations.

Despite Air and Space Power’s undeniable contribution, NATO continues a drastic and increasing reduction of the very same capabilities. The current ‘climate of austerity’ will put investment in future Air and Space Power under further scrutiny, resulting most likely in further diminishing the minimum military Air and Space Power capabilities needed to support NATO’s Level of Ambition. NATO now faces the increasingly dire risk of not having the right capabilities and / or ­sufficient quantities of Air Power and access to space capabilities to cope with the security challenges outlined in NATO’s forward looking Strategic Concept.

The JAPCC’s ‘Future Vector Project’ aims to significantly contribute to the wider debate surrounding Alliance and National security, and crisis response in a rapidly changing and challenging world.

The Future Vector Project ‘Core Team’ is comprised of well-respected leaders: Lieutenant General (ret.) Ralph Jodice (USA), Lieutenant General (ret.) Frederik H. Meulman (NLD), Lieutenant General (ret.) Stefano Panato (ITA), Lieutenant General (ret.) Friedrich W. Ploeger (DEU), Air Marshal Graham Stacey (GBR), Air Commodore Prof. Dr. Frans Osinga (NLD), Colonel Prof. John Andreas Olsen (NOR), Prof. Dr. Phil. Holger H. Mey (DEU), Dr. Hans Binnendijk (USA), Mr Daniel P. Fata (USA) and Mr Camille Grand (FRA).

Additionally, Key Leader advisors from DEU, FRA, GBR, ITA, NLD, NOR, POL, ROU, TUR and USA are also engaged. Manpower, coupled with generous funding contributions from JAPCC Sponsoring Nations, have been vital in setting the proper conditions and foundation for success.


But why do we need to study something that is a vital military capability, and which has underpinned Alliance defence and security capa­bility since its inception?

The precise application of combat power from the air is founded upon superb equipment, superior training, very high levels of inter­oper­­ability, and seasoned ex­perience; all enabled by strong air leadership exercised through a well-developed Air Command and Control capability.

With the end of the Cold War, we have witnessed an increase in NATO’s utilization of Air Power. In each conflict, airmen and women have demonstrated the unprecedented value of Air Power in providing NATO and national leaders with a tool of unmatched responsiveness and flexibility.

As we prepare for future conflict, it is critical that we capture the lessons learned from recent combat experience as we transition from a deployed combat tested force to a ready in garrison force. Fur­thermore, the near-term cessation of operations in Afghanistan combined with the ongoing financial crisis makes it certain that investment in future Air Power will be ­under heavy scrutiny. It is thus critical for NATO to actively investigate, develop and promulgate its vision for Air and Space Power for the future. Proactive planning will be absolutely essential to ensure the necessary capabilities and force readiness is available to provide a decisive advantage in future Alliance operations.

Furthermore, the goal of NATO Forces 2020, set in the Chicago Summit, requires modern, tightly con­nected forces, equipped, trained, exercised and commanded, so that they can operate together and with partners in any environment. However, in August 2011, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, highlighted that since the end of the Cold War, European NATO countries defence spending had fallen by 20 % whilst their combined Gross Domestic Product had grown by 55 %. In 1991 European defence expenditure was 34 % of NATO’s total; it is now 21 %. The US has made it very clear that it wants European Allies to take on a bigger share of the burden for Alliance defence in general, and for European defence in particular. The crisis in Ukraine serves as a very timely reminder that security is not a given in the European region.

The Shortfalls

For Air Power the shortfalls are numerous and significant. Shortages range from Theatre and Ballistic Missile Defence to Counter-Improvised Explosive Device tech­nologies; Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and ­Reconnaissance and Joint Precision Strike are further hindered by inadequate Air-to-Air Refuelling, Stra­tegic Airlift, Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) and robust Cyber Defence and offensive capabilities. Special Operations Forces Aviation and Combat Search and Rescue are vital but under-­resourced. Likewise, Airborne Electronic Attack, Che­mical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear capability and Ground Based Air Defence are all in short supply. So too is Deploy­able Medical Support. Operational equipment rates are low, flying hours are below agreed standards and concurrent operational pressure is leading to the cancellation or reduced participation in multinational commitments such as the NATO Response Force. In many areas the Alliance has exquisite capability, but it is too often only found in a very few nations, is severely limited in its quantity and hence capacity, and is under ever growing and relentless resource pressure.

The Paradox

There is a peculiar paradox emerging. A paradox that has parallels in other walks of life but for us relates to Air Power. At a time when NATO Air Power has shown itself to politicians and policymakers to be a versatile and essential tool for conflict resolution, those same decision-makers are making reductions that could undermine the capability they have so recently used to such good effect. This has happened before, with armies slashed only to be resurrected in great haste at the onset of the next challenge. It appears to be the Western way, where few populations will tolerate the maintenance of greater armed forces than are absolutely essential, but in such a volatile and fast paced world the consequences of continual reductions or uneven burden sharing must be discussed openly and intelligently.

The disparity between the approach taken by the world in Libya and Syria demonstrates that military action does not have to be the mainstay of crisis response. But if reductions are undertaken which create the circumstances whereby there can be no realistic military option then security and political risk will have risen immeasurably. The seeming disparity between the stated goals of Chicago and the realities increasingly apparent on the flight line suggest that taking stock of NATO’s Air and Space Power is a pressing need.

Present Paradox – Future Challenge

The JAPCC Staff published the results of its initial comprehensive study as a first step in this Project titled ‘Present Paradox – Future Challenge’ which is available to download online at This initial study provides an accurate summary of the current situation by addressing three main issues:

The significance of Air and Space Power in history (tactical, operational, strategic level).

Diminishing Air Power capabilities and capability shortfalls.

Future security environment.

The Final Chapter of this document provides food for thought in different domains: at the political and military level, in the realm of Research and Development, Science and Technology and industries, and in relation to Partnership.

Future Vector Project – Main Effort

The Future Vector ‘Core Team’ has finalized its main effort and the last phase of the Project and produced a series of essays that identify viable options and solutions to guarantee that Air and Space Power continue to be key to the security and success of NATO and its Allies for both short and long term.

The essays intend to provide a fresh, holistic, balanced perspective and provide innovative, actionable recom­mendations aimed at the appropriate political- and policymaker levels within NATO and its Nations. The series of essays are published in two compendiums, and are also available for download.

Some Key Topics:

  • The Paradox of Air and Space Power and the need more than ever for Robust Political Support and Renewed Funding;
  • The impact of Global Trends on Air and Space Power in NATO;
  • History is Continuity in Change, The Role of Joint Air and Space Power in NATO in a Rebalanced Security Paradigm;
  • The Enduring Quest for Capability Development in NATO – Aligning National Interests with Alliance Interests;
  • A New Concept for Air, Space and Cyber Power;
  • The Future Role of Partnerships in Transatlantic Air and Space Power;
  • Beyond Optimization: Innovation and Adaptability for NATO Air and Space Power – The Role of Industry;
  • The New Burden Sharing Imperative.

Ultimately it is intended that the ideas and views ­expressed in the compendium will evolve into follow on activities in support of the enduring Project to guarantee that Air and Space Power in NATO is suf­ficiently available and fit for purpose when most needed in NATO, anywhere, anytime.

JAPCC Air & Space Power Conference

The JAPCC welcomes you to attend our 2014 Air and Space Power Conference in Kleve, Germany from 18 – 20 November.

‘Air and Space Power in NATO – Future Vector’ is the theme of this year’s conference. The JAPCC conference attracts senior military, political, industry and academia leaders with attendance of over 130 flag officers in the last 2 years.

This year’s Key Note Speaker is Ambassador Stephen Evans.

Ambassador Evans took up the post of Assistant Secretary General for Operations in August 2011 on secondment from the United Kingdom Diplomatic Service. He supports the North Atlantic Council and the Secretary General of NATO in the political direction and management of NATO’s operational activities.

The JAPCC 2014 Air and Space Conference will debate the key themes emerging from the Project. This is your opportunity to discuss, and most importantly, influence the outcome of the ‘Future Vector Project’.

Your ideas will shape the final report and help the JAPCC influence the development of NATO’s vital Air and Space Power capabilities.

For further details please contact the JAPCC at or write us directly: .

Content Navigation

Other Articles in this Journal

Leadership Perspective

Interview with General Gorenc

Interview with Commander US Air Forces in Europe, US Air Forces Africa, Allied Air Command and Director Joint Air Power Competence Centre

Transformation & Capabilities

First Collective AAR Clearance Trial

An Outstanding Best Practice for Truly Collective Development

Europe’s Strategic Airlift Gap

Quantifying the Capability Gap and Measuring Solutions

Capacity Language Building in NATO

Language Skill as a Crucial Tool for Interoperability at All Levels

How is Close Air Support Changing?


Future Considerations of BMC2

BMC2 Must Be Both Horizontally and Vertically Integrated to Maximize Information Exchange and Fusion

Intellectual Interoperability and Higher Education

Professional Training and Partnership Development with Academia

Communication as a Service

100 Years of German Naval Aviation

A Continuous Change from the Beginning

Be the Windscreen, Not the Bug

Cyber – An Air Commander’s Responsibility

Where are the Carriers?

Affirming and Preserving NATO Air Power from the Sea

Developing Future Force Protection Capability

Part 2

Unmanned Cargo Aircraft!

A Paradigm Shift for Theatre and Tactical Level Logistics in Asymmetric Conflicts?

Out of the Box

The $50.00 Cognitive Swiss Army Knife

Manual Simulation Systems – Versatility Trumps All

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