The First Steps
With this journal issue, the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) celebrates its 10th anniversary. The JAPCC was and has been, since its accreditation in 2005, the first and largest NATO Centre of Excellence (CoE). Although the NATO Command Structure had, at that time, established Air Component Commands at Ramstein and Izmir, a centralized strategic-level Joint Air and Space Power body was lacking. In response to this need, the JAPCC was born. Its initial purpose was to foster the development of new ideas for the command, control, and employment of joint air assets and to facilitate appropriate measures for implementing these ideas by providing mission qualified subject matter expertise to the NATO Command Structure.
In 2002, the German Chief of Air Staff envisioned the establishment of the JAPCC, which would inherit personnel and materiel from the Reaction Force Air Staff (RFAS), located in Kalkar, Germany. The JAPCC was declared an official NATO military body as of 1 January, 2005, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony in 2004 at HQ SACT. Initially consisting of representatives from 16 Nations, the JAPCC added Romania as its 17th member in 2006.
The JAPCC was established to fulfil NATO’s Air and Space Power-specific functional requirements with a General as Director and a Lieutenant General as Executive Director. They were supported by two Brigadier General Assistant Directors and a Colonel as the Director of Staff. The work force was configured as a matrix organization divided into six branches, each directed by a Colonel. A total of 76 Subject Matter Experts (SME), including 42 joint officer posts, was available to meet the operational requirements.
In order to promote the centre’s efforts, the first edition of the bi-annual JAPCC journal was published in spring 2005, followed by the first annual conference in Kleve, themed ‘How do we ensure that NATO Air Power remains relevant?’ In addition to developing projects dealing with relevant Air Power topics, the JAPCC was also approached by NATO to be the chairman of several working groups, including the Air Operations Working Group (AOWG), as NATO’s main body responsible for Air Power doctrinal publications and definitions.
Following these initial steps, the JAPCC broadened its approach and addressed other topics such as Force Protection, the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Flight Plan, and improving Space support to NATO operations. It was the first time that an organization had taken a holistic approach in the investigation of these air power-centric topics.
One of the milestones in 2007 was the dedication of the JAPCC’s Conference Centre in Kalkar, which satisfied the demand for an internal and external discussion, conference and meeting focal point. As a result of the increased public attention brought by products such as the UAS Flight Plan and Air C2 C4ISR Roadmap, the JAPCC was also able to attract higher-ranking key note speakers and panellists from the military, academia, and industry to support their annual conference, emphasizing the relevance and importance of NATO Air and Space Power.
Due to the fact that Air Power expertise was underrepresented in many organizations, the JAPCC began to satisfy the demand, providing assistance to training events and NATO exercises. Involvement in ongoing missions also grew in importance. At the request of the Allied Command Transformation (ACT), the JAPCC reviewed structures within the Afghan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) C2 Development program. The aim was to enhance operational capabilities and support progress. Visiting the theatre of operation and providing subject matter expertise offered a unique opportunity, further enhancing the JAPCC’s visibility and providing insights to the SMEs involved.
On behalf of the Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, the JAPCC also analysed the Air & Space Power contribution to the C-IED fight in Afghanistan. ISAF theatre visits, in-house research and wide-ranging consultation resulted in a number of recommendations to optimize the employment of Air & Space capabilities. Further support to current operations was provided by undertaking a comprehensive Force Protection estimate and reviewing the Kabul International Airport Ground Defence Zone plan. Both topics are, in some respects, ongoing activities and have formed the basis for lectures at the NATO School Oberammergau and other external entities.
The NATO Space Operations Assessment was published in January 2009, as requested by ACT. Topics addressed were Combined Space Operations, Space Situational Awareness and Access to Space, helping to develop space expertise through yet another first-time holistic approach.
Following a request from the Air Command, Izmir, the JAPCC deployed two SMEs on short notice to Poggio Renatico to assist with the ‘Lessons Identified’ process for OPERATION UNIFIED PROTECTOR (OUP). The deployment provided insight into the conduct of operations, adding extra value to ongoing projects. The visit resulted in a JAPCC report containing 47 recommendations concerning such topics as manpower, strategy, planning, organization, capabilities, and training.
Although the JAPCC was focused on the transformation of NATO, it also had to consider transforming itself. Based on the fact that most of the previous RFAS personnel had been replaced by sponsoring nation SMEs, the JAPCC transformed its processes and its organizational structure. Most of the projects were managed using a NATO-Secret network environment, and therefore had limited public visibility. In order to spread the JAPCC message to a wider audience, it relocated primary production to a less restrictive network, aiming to make the JAPCC products available by publishing them on the internet. This shift also enabled the implementation of a world-wide collaborative environment, increasing research and remote access capabilities. The ability to publish classified products was retained. Decisions regarding the restriction of individual publications are still made today on a case-by-case basis.
From an organizational point of view, the JAPCC process structure was also adjusted. As part of the internal JAPCC improvement campaign, the interrelationship between the annual programme of work, key stakeholders and product customers was highlighted. Focus areas like Space or Missile Defence were formulated and connected to products and stakeholders.
To further enhance the performance of the JAPCC, the branches were renamed and restructured. SMEs were assigned to new positions in order to cope with austerity measures that caused some nations to reduce or withdraw personnel. Despite these mitigation efforts, some key Air Power areas like Electronic Warfare / Suppression of Enemy Air Defence, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) have been impacted by the reduction in JAPCC’s capacity to provide support, for example to the NATO Joint ISR Panel.
2013 marked an additional structural reorganization in order to meet current realities and future requirements. Aimed at enhancing engagement capabilities and improved internal planning and control, the number of branches was reduced to four and the role of Director of Staff was redesignated as Chief of Staff (CoS). Additionally, the two Assistant Director posts were merged to a single post. An internal review of all SME job descriptions was completed, resulting in a demand for additional manning and a rebalancing of subject matter expertise, which was offered for bid to the sponsoring nations.
The same year, the JAPCC took over custodianship of the Allied Joint Publication 3.3 (AJP 3.3), NATO’s core document with regard to Air & Space Power, which had not been reviewed and updated for some time. In cooperation with the Allied nations and other respective NATO bodies, the JAPCC developed a draft of the revised AJP 3.3 which is currently under ratification. The year 2013 also marked the start of a significant JAPCC study, ‘Air and Space Power in NATO – Future Vector Project’ (FVP), which focused on how Air Power can remain a key enabler for success and security. This was the first time that the JAPCC contracted external expertise to conduct a study. The JAPCC completed the FVP start paper in August 2013 and it served as the baseline for external consultant proceedings in 2014.
As a result of this consultancy, a three volume set of essays was published throughout 2014, consisting of ‘Present Paradox – Future Challenge’, ‘Air & Space Power in NATO – Part 1’ and ‘Air & Space Power in NATO – Part 2’. All volumes were distributed widely to key decision-makers within the Alliance in order to stimulate thought in advance of the JAPCC’s annual conference, which then served as a platform for an intense discussion of NATO’s ‘way ahead’ regarding Air & Space Power. It is now the JAPCC’s task to take the outcomes of the 2014 conference and develop actionable recommendations for the future improvement of Air & Space Power in NATO.
Additionally, four other major publications were finalized in 2014: ‘Improving Support to Future Air Advisor Operations’, ‘Enhancing NATO Joint Personnel Recovery Capability’, ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems in Contested Environments – A Vulnerability Analysis’, and ‘Air-to-Air Refuelling Consolodation – An Update’. Especially in the arena of remotely piloted vehicles, the JAPCC entered uncharted territory and highlighted its leading role in independent thought and analysis. The Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) paper contained several recommendations, one of which led to the development of an ACT-certified, NATO-specific AAR planners’ course that is now being taught twice a year.
The JAPCC was tasked to provide a report on the ‘Military Implications of a Single European Sky’ (SES) to the European Air Chiefs Conference (EURAC). It was foreseeable that SES would have a clear impact on the military use of the European airspace; therefore, a complete assessment that included recommended actions was required. JAPCC accomplished this task and briefed the Air Chiefs on 5 September, 2014, in Brunnen, Switzerland. As a result, the ‘Position Statement of the EURAC on the JAPCC Report on the Implications of SES’ was issued, stating the European Air Chiefs’ common ground for proceeding with SES. Subsequently, the full report was finalized and distributed to the Air Chiefs in early January 2015.
Lastly, the JAPCC was invited to become the NATO Department Head for Space 2014, and, once ratified by the Military Committee, will assume the responsibility for NATO’s Space training harmonization. This was a significant addition to the JAPCC’s Education & Training portfolio. Where requested, the JAPCC Education & Training support activities also include the provision of Air & Space Power expertise to other NATO entities, such as the NATO School Oberammergau.
The year 2014 was characterized by a general rotation of senior leadership within our directorate and a continuing decline in the number of available SMEs. Sponsoring nations must be aware that without adequate and timely replacement of departing personnel, the JAPCC’s ability to provide support will be hampered. In order to enhance the abilities of our SMEs, we established in 2014 a partnership with the University of Lincoln. This partnership offers every newcomer an opportunity to attend a research skills improvement course, obtaining an introduction to research methods and improving their academic essay writing techniques. Newcomers are also obliged to attend a two week Air C2 course within the German Air Operation Command. Sponsoring nations can be assured that they will get a better trained and educated Staff Officer back after their end of tour here at the JAPCC.
Recent years have demonstrated the JAPCC’s ability to serve NATO and the nations as the single catalyst for Air and Space Power. Initially formed as an organization not yet optimized for its purpose, the JAPCC has transformed into a well-respected CoE for all aspects concerning Air and Space Power. Despite declines in manning and funds, we’ve managed to overcome all challenges through teamwork. Nevertheless, we still must question ourselves: how can we further improve in the coming years? Are we reaching the right level of customer? How do we proceed with our conferences and product creation? How do we enhance ‘jointness’ within our own organization?
The JAPCC team continues to strive for internal improvement while advocating for Joint Air and Space Power within the NATO Alliance, seeking to provide key decision-makers effective solutions to Joint Air Power challenges in order to safeguard Alliance interests.