Cooperation is one of the key pillars of NATO’s ‘Active Engagement, Modern Defence’ strategy and was acknowledged as such by the NATO Heads of State and Government (HOS / G) in Lisbon in 2010. The Strategy stipulates, among other things, ‘that partners make a concrete and valued contribution to the success of NATO’s fundamental tasks’. NATO’s intent is to enhance partnerships by establishing a more flexible environment for collaboration and bringing together NATO members and partners that operate within their own diverse and varied frameworks. NATO presents operational partners a role in shaping strategy and decisions for NATO-led missions to which they contribute resources. Consequently, a spirit of cooperation has evolved to the extent that there are now several examples of highly successful cooperative endeavors including operations in Afghanistan and Libya.
At the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO endorsed the Partnership Interoperability Initiative with the intent ‘to enhance interoperability and preparedness for future crises management’. This enhanced focus on interoperability led to improved capabilities for operational cooperation through establishing a process for standardizing and validating partner units and by increasing the opportunities for partners to participate in NATO exercises.
The topic of cooperation also figured prominently at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, with the NATO HOS / G declaring, as promulgated in the Summit Communiqué, that ‘the success of NATO partnerships is demonstrated by their strategic contribution to Alliance and international security … (and that NATO) will further develop our partnerships so that they continue to meet the interests of both Allies and partners’. They also affirmed the need for a more ‘tailor-made, individual and flexible approach to make NATO partnership cooperation more strategic, coherent and effective’.
The Wales and Warsaw Summits both demonstrate not only the importance, but also the enduring requirement to cultivate an environment of cooperation between NATO and its partners. Enhancing cooperation in the operational domain is an area where the effects are the most tangible and apparent, particularly when NATO is engaged in a crisis and / or conflict situation, as the experiences in Afghanistan and Libya demonstrate.
Cooperation should be viewed from different angles. First and foremost, acknowledging NATO’s principled focus on military cooperation between Member States: Alliance cooperation in order to create effective and efficient options and opportunities for operational cooperation and for capability and competency development in the area of Joint Air Power between NATO member states. Second, Partnership cooperation with the intent of establishing a strategic dialogue and building mutual understanding and trust. Third, Partnership cooperation with the intent of NATO supporting a partnership country to establish a secure and stable environment. Fourth, Partnership cooperation with Finland and Sweden, countries that play a crucial role in supporting NATO in accomplishing its essential task of collective defence. Fifth, operational cooperation with partners who are willing and able to cooperate with NATO in an operational environment, side by side. This paper focuses on two of these forms of cooperation: intra-Alliance military cooperation i.e. between the NATO member states themselves, and military Partnership cooperation between NATO and non-NATO countries. Both these forms are referred to as ‘Alliance and Partnership cooperation’.
This article focuses on Alliance and Partnership cooperation with the aim of proposing urgent short to medium term requirements for enhanced operational cooperation and for capability and competency development in the area of Joint Air Power. The requirements complement the excellent work already taking place in the field of Partnership cooperation among the Military Partnership organizations of Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe, ACT, Joint Forces Command Brunssum and Allied Air Command Ramstein1. The goal for this article is to recommend intensifying operational cooperation with the existing group of Enhanced Partners, but also widening operational cooperation and interoperability with the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC- partners2, 3. The key questions are: ‘how can we be stronger together’ and ‘what are the urgent priorities for enhancing operational Alliance and Partnership cooperation in support NATO’s Joint Air Power Strategy?’ This article is not so much about shortcomings as it is about creating new and meaningful cooperation requirements (options and opportunities) in the field of Joint Air Power.
In his most recent article ‘NATO Air Power, The Last Word’, General (retired) Frank Gorenc, USAF and former Commander Allied Air Command, addressed the topic of operational cooperation very succinctly: ‘We need a robust NATO, we fight together. You cannot surge trust, you cannot surge relationships. NATO’s strength is underpinned by relationships developed day in and day out and the trust that comes with those relationships. A robust NATO requires shared commitment … and interoperability in all things must be pursued and achieved.’4
Operationally, NATO Joint Air Power is only as good as the air forces that contribute to it. This also includes the air forces of those non-NATO countries contributing to a NATO operational deployment. NATO is currently developing a Joint Air Power Strategy led by ACT. It is important to develop a coherent strategy that pays particular attention to Alliance and Partnership cooperation. Fundamental questions include: ‘What does Alliance and Partnership cooperation mean in the context of NATO’s Joint Air Power Strategy?’, ‘How do we strengthen Alliance and Partnership Joint Air Power cooperation?’, ‘How do we integrate Joint Air Power partners as early as possible to demonstrate that everybody is in the game?’, ‘How do we optimize Alliance and Partnership cooperation in the fields of ETEE, thereby setting the conditions to optimize operational cooperation?’ In short, how do we create a cooperative spirit, establish trust and achieve operational effectiveness. This leads to the question ‘What are new Alliance and Partnership opportunities for operational cooperation and options for capability and competency development in the area of Joint Air Power?’ In the following paragraphs new and meaningful options and opportunities for Alliance and Partnership cooperation are proposed.
Requirements for Alliance Cooperation
Alliance cooperation is about bi- or multinational, or collective Joint Air Power cooperation in NATO. The intent is to explore new and meaningful Joint Air Power cooperation options and opportunities that will improve the conditions for an effective operational Joint Air Power in support of NATO’s Core Essential Tasks. Options and opportunities are:
Strengthening the NATO Allied Air Command 24 / 7 Command and Control (C2) Element that, in the context of Indication and Warning (I&W), supports Commander Allied Air Command in providing an accurate and timely situational awareness picture of political and military developments around the immediate periphery of Europe as well as an overview of current events in the airspace over NATO / Europe. This will be achieved through continuous monitoring, production and delivery of situation reports and alerts to stakeholders in the Allied Air Command organization and to Joint Forces Command Brunssum and SHAPE (the Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre – CCOMC). This 24 / 7 C2 Element will be included in Allied Air Command’s JFAC organization when activated in times of crisis or conflict. These options can be extended by incorporating into the Allied Air Command C2 Element an Enhanced Partner cooperation cell. This will extend the scope of the C2 Element and provide an opportunity to transform the Enhanced partner countries’ representatives to operational liaisons officers for their nations at Allied Air Command in the event of a crisis or conflict.
Expanding the collective involvement in NATO Joint Air Power. There are several ways to implement this option. First, we must recognize that strengthening NATO’s Joint Air Power force structure is not only the responsibility of those NATO countries that possess dedicated Joint Air Power capabilities and competencies. Rather, it is also the responsibility of countries that do not have the resources to actively help to strengthen NATO’s Joint Air Power posture. The human factor in the Allied Air Command-organization is of strategic importance; there will always be a need for specialized staff. Those nations lacking dedicated air power capabilities must be ready to support the Joint Air Power competency requirements by supplying staff that can be trained for specific tasks. Second, strengthening the involvement in NATO Joint Air Power can also be accomplished with additional financial contributions and spending more in NATO common funded or bi- or multinational Joint Air Power projects. Third, many countries in NATO are in the process of planning to replace legacy Joint Air Power systems. The question is how we streamline these processes in NATO. This can be done by coordinating and synchronizing future Joint Air Power acquisition timelines and searching for common and cost-effective solutions. For example, possible options for cooperation in the field of Surface Based Air and Missile Defence (SBAMD) / Integrated Air and Missile Defence (IAMD) include:
- Explore the acquisition, by NATO, of an organic, high end interceptor capability (like NATO Airborne Early Warning and NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS).
- Explore establishing a shared pool of high end interceptors.
- Encourage NATO Allies to acquire low end interceptors.
- Implement interim solutions to integrate legacy Air Defence systems; Increase interoperability, particularly with former Warsaw Pact nations who still operate legacy Air Defence weapon systems.
Using Air Advice and Assist Teams (A3-Team). Besides the Expert Staff and Mobile Training Team visits in the context of existing military Partnership cooperation, we should optimize outreach throughout NATO to include Air Advice and Assist Teams. These teams can assist NATO member states strengthen common involvement in Joint Air Power by synchronizing the planning of legacy Joint Air Power Systems replacement activities. They can explore options for acquisition and sharing the responsibility of pooling resources and can also support NATO member states bridge existing competency gaps by addressing topics such as: general Air Power knowledge (Doctrine, Integration, Connectivity, Principles and Characteristics); the NATO Joint Force Air Component Commanders (JFACC) organization; Air Battle Management; Air – Land integration; Air campaign Planning, etc. Finally, the A3-teams could support Allied Air Command’s Evaluation Branch in conducting Tactical Evaluations.
Developing a multinational NATO Air Warfighting Centre on the basis of the Framework Nation Concept. This will allow a NATO Air Warfighting Centre to gradually develop into a practical hub for NATO Joint Air Power Education, Training, Exercising and Evaluation activities. The develop-ment of a NATO Air Warfighting Centre will lead to a practice-oriented organization with a theoretical base and will help to strengthen and preserve Joint Air Power competencies and skills and strengthen the qualitative application of available Joint Air Power resources. It leaves room for larger and smaller NATO member states to plug into a meaningful Joint Air Power backbone provided by a larger member state acting as the Framework Nation. Developing a NATO Air Warfighting Centre also leaves room for developing an attractive and sustainable multinational air training capacity in Europe. The idea of developing a NATO Air Warfighting Centre, for example in Greece, Italy or Spain, would provide the opportunity to better leverage Joint Air Power Education, Training, Exercising and Evaluation opportunities at air bases like (in alphabetical order): Decimomannu, Sigonella, Souda, Trapani or Zaragossa etc. The development of a NATO Air Warfighting Centre also creates opportunities to cooperate with or build upon existing national exercises like Frisian Flag, Joint Project Optic Windmill (JPOW) and the Joint Air Warfare Tactical Exercise (JAWTEX) etc. Finally, a NATO Air Warfighting Centre offers possibilities for structured forms of partnership cooperation in the field of Joint Air Power.
Requirements for Partnership Cooperation. Partnership cooperation focuses on operational cooperation in the field of Joint Air Power. It ranges from exchanging information to planning combined exercises and deploying Air Power in joint, NATO-led operations. The intent is to enhance practical, new and meaningful Joint Air Power cooperation options and opportunities with the Enhanced and GCC-partners in order to develop a deeper security partnership. It forms the basis for a wider understanding of each other’s capabilities and limitations and for effective Joint Air Power collaboration in crises and conflicts. Options and opportunities are:
Joint Air Power – Defence and Security Building Country Packages. In order to develop a deeper security partnership, tailor made individual country Joint Air Power packages must be developed for the Enhanced and GCC- partners. Depending on the purpose, potential and need of the intended cooperation, the Defence and Security Building Package must be based on multi-year, spiral development of intensive individual Joint Air Power Cooperation initiatives. Working relationships with Enhanced and Gulf partner countries must be synchronized at an appropriate level. This approach allows for a different focus in package elements and collaboration speeds. Elements of such a Joint Air Power Country Package could include:
- Increased information exchange to promote better understanding of NATO’s Joint Air Power policies and functions and to improve relations with political, military and civil authorities.
- Leadership development in the field of Joint Air Power.
- More regular Joint Air Power dialogue and intensive practical cooperation based on shared security challenges.
- Creating the conditions for future operational cooperation by exchanging country specific information, including local infrastructure and circumstances.
- Pre-planned arrangements with regard to Host Nation Support (HNS) for example: Fuel, Force Protection (active and passive), Medical, Food, Airport of Debarkation / Sea Port of Debarkation, and Judicial etc.
- Frequency Management arrangements for the use of the frequency spectrum. Which frequency bands are available and under what conditions?
Increased Partnership Cooperation at the Operational Level. Priorities must be assigned to areas where cooperation at the operational level between NATO and its Enhanced- and GCC-partners can be established quickly and then fully developed. This is particularly appropriate for military Partnership cooperation with Finland and Sweden, countries that play a crucial role in supporting NATO in accomplishing its essential task of collective defence. Currently, progress in this area is already being made, but there are political impediments which still hinder the fully desired military cooperation. Recalling the intent of the Alliance, ‘that it will further develop partnerships so that they continue to meet the interests of both Allies and partners’ and with the requirement for a more ‘tailor-made, individual and flexible approach to make NATO partnership cooperation more strategic, coherent and effective’, a primary objective should be setting the conditions to maximize cooperation by lifting existing political obstructions to achieving full Partnership cooperation at the operational level. Coordination must be planned, executed and refined in peacetime, so personnel are well prepared in advance of a conflict. The initial effort must focus on enabling collaborative planning, tasking and execution of combined air operations. To achieve this, the connectivity to permit collaboration, C2 between Enhanced- and GCC-partners and NATO must be established then accompanied with a concerted effort in training and education.
National policies must be factored into the review of operational Partnership cooperation. The varied geographic locations of NATO member nations relative to their Enhanced and GCC-partners dictates that, for conducting joint air operations, close coordination is both more challenging and critical to avoid unnecessary escalation and to maintain flight safety. Depending on national policy restrictions, the scope of coordination could range from strictly safeguarding the integrity of the airspace; through greater education, training and exercises; to, with robust connectivity, executing C2 and conducting the planning, tasking and execution of combined air operations in crisis and / or conflict.
Close coordination requires fully interoperable systems, robust connectivity, cooperative planning processes and a thorough understanding of command and planning processes. The key enabler for coordination is connectivity, which must be fully established between NATO and its Enhanced and GCC-partners, and in advance of conflict when competencies can be honed and refined. Currently, however, political guidance restricts mutual cooperation and collaboration strictly to air operation deconfliction. Today’s complex strategic environment, however, has heightened the level of urgency for timely coordination among partners, which requires greater flexibility and, therefore, new political guidance that permits broader possibilities for operational cooperation.
When planning connectivity between NATO and its partners, it is critical to establish mutually acceptable standards and formats to enable information exchange. Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems enabling coordinated execution of combined air operations between NATO and the Enhanced and GCC-partners require the following minimum characteristics:
- secure (Protects confidentiality, integrity and availability);
- enable real time, or near-real time data exchange (voice and VTC) across the tactical, operational, and strategic levels;
- support tactical data link networks (Link 16 etc.);
- support computer based education and training (CBT) (incl. common virtual training);
- enable Distributed Training, Modeling and Simulation (incl. wargames);
- support situational awareness tools (Recognized Maritime, Land and Air Pictures (RM / L / AP) and a Common Operating Picture (COP);
- support surveillance and early warning information;
- support coordinated (or integrated / common) defence planning and reporting (Air Operation Planning, Air Tasking Order and ACO generation and Targeting).
Development of a Partnership Air Group based on NATO’s Framework Nation Concept with a NATO lead nation. The development of a Partnership Air Group with Enhanced or Gulf Partner Countries leads to an information based and practice-oriented Air Group organization that plans and organizes commonly agreed Joint Air Power activities on a yearly basis. It will help to strengthen cooperative Joint Air Power competencies and skills and optimize the basis for practical cooperation in times of crises and conflicts. It leaves room for interested NATO Member States and Enhanced and Gulf partner countries to plug in and develop stronger forms of Joint Air Power cooperation under the lead of a NATO Framework Nation. Partnership Air Groups complement the Joint Air Power – Defence and Security Building Country Packages approach.
Increase the number of courses available for partner countries. SHAPE, together with ACT, should review and assess the Joint Air Power courses that are accessible to partner countries, specifically: Joint Air Power courses (Doctrine, Integration, Connectivity, Principles, Characteristics); the NATO JFACC organization; Air Battle Management; Air-Land Integration; and Air Campaign Planning.
Strengthen Joint Air Power cooperation with the EU, in particular in the field of SBAMD and IAMD, with a specific focus on those EU / non-NATO countries that, intentionally or otherwise, would be involved in the use of NATO (T)BMD. Topics should include Education; Cooperative Training, Exercises and Evaluation; and Cooperation with partner countries with regard to the development of the Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) capabilities.
Start a NATO Working Group to analyze and assess foreign disclosure problems and propose recommendations to lift barriers to NATO countries and partners.
Extend the Joint Air Power Competence Centre with a Partnership Division with representatives initially from the Enhanced Partner countries. This will lead to a structured and more intensive exchange of information and elaboration of agreed-to Joint Air Power topics. The advice should be forwarded to the Director JAPCC and the JAPCC Steering Committee Members.
Requirements: Impact – Cost – Priority
The preceding paragraphs provide an overview of urgent short to medium term requirements with the aim of developing enhanced operational Alliance and Partnership cooperation and capability and competency development in the area of Joint Air Power.
A table of prioritized requirements is included on the next page. This table depicts the relationship between the requirements (options and opportunities) and the criteria for determining the overall priority of the requirement i.e. impact and cost. In the context of this article, impact, cost and priority are defined as follows:
Impact: low, medium and high.
Low means a low effect on the possibility for enhancing NATO Joint Air Power capability and competency development in the field of Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and resilience. Medium implies not a great effect, but still significant. High means a great effect on further developing NATO Joint Air Power capabilities and competencies.
Cost: low, medium and high.
Low: less than 1M €. Medium: 1–10M €. High: more than 10M €. Within the context of this paper low and medium costs are defined as affordable. The affordability of medium cost assumes a high impact relationship.
Priority: The priority of the recommendations ranges from 1 to 4.
- Prio 1 means: high impact – low cost and high impact – medium cost. Rationale: medium cost is affordable.
- Prio 2 means: medium impact – low cost and medium impact – medium cost. Rationale: Medium impact is still significant.
- Prio 3 means: medium impact – high cost and high impact – high cost.
- Prio 4 means: low impact – high cost.
Besides impact and cost, the requirements identified for NATO Joint Air Power’s capabilities and competencies to cope with Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and hybrid threats need to meet the following criteria. First, have strategic implication, which is related to a high and medium impact on the capabilities and competencies to deal with Hybrid Conflicts, Hybrid Warfare, hybrid threats and to enhance resilience. Second, the solutions must be joint / combined in nature. Third, the solutions to the shortfalls must be actionable / achievable.
This leads to the following prioritization matrix of Alliance and Partnership Joint Air Power requirements.
The prioritization matrix reveals a number of interesting findings:
- First, almost all requirements, if acted upon, will significantly enhance the possibility for Alliance and Partnership cooperation and capability and competency development in the field of Joint Air Power. Nine out of eleven requirements have a high impact and nine high impact requirements can be achieved against affordable (low to medium) cost (priority 1). Two (nrs. 8 and 9) have a medium impact – low cost relationship leading to a priority 2 status. Because of the complex nature of the work the immediate effect of these requirements will not be readily apparent nor are they expected to be large, but they will still be significant. NATO should focus its immediate attention on the priority 1 and 2 requirements.
- Second, quite a significant number of requirements can be addressed without incurring high costs, or simply require the will to make things happen. Establishing a broader array of Joint Air Power courses is feasible without extensive cost, especially if sufficient cooperation can be developed and achieved between like-minded organizations.
- Third, requirement options nr. 2, 4, 5 and 6 include a number of measures which can be carried out gradually. This means costs could be lower. Options 4 and 6: high impact and high cost are categorized as priority 3. High impact implies a great effect on needed capabilities, knowledge and skills. These requirements are so important that, if the conditions allow, consideration should be given to a higher priority.
- Fourth, the cost indicator is an initial, rough categorization that will require refinement in the follow-up process.
Alliance and Partnership cooperation are key pillars of NATO’s Strategy. Alliance cooperation is critical to develop effective and efficient options to enable collaboration at the operational level and for capability and competency development in the area of Joint Air Power between NATO member states. Operational cooperation with Enhanced and GCC-partner countries, in particular Finland and Sweden is important because they make a concrete and valued contribution to the success of NATO’s fundamental tasks. NATO’s intent is to enhance partnerships through flexible formats and NATO is giving operational partners a structural role in shaping strategy and decisions on NATO-led missions to which they contribute. NATO’s intent is to enhance Partnership interoperability and preparedness for future crisis management operations leading to improved capabilities for operational cooperation. To that end, NATO currently employs a range of effective partnership tools, including Mobile Training Teams and an Operational Capability Concept – Evaluation and Feedback Programme, which are excellent initiatives and tools, but do not eliminate the need to strengthen operational cooperation, in particular with Enhanced and GCC-partners.
This aim is in line with the outcome of the 2016 Warsaw Summit where the NATO HOS / G declared that ‘the success of NATO partnerships is demonstrated by their strategic contribution to Alliance and international security … (and that NATO) will further develop our partnerships so that they continue to meet the interests of both Allies and partners’. They also affirmed the need for a more ‘tailor-made, individual and flexible approach to make NATO’s partnership cooperation more strategic, coherent and effective’. The requirements listed in this article, in particular for operational Partnership cooperation, support that NATO can achieve this goal if it is willing to allow more political flexibility and provide the direction to achieve greater operational cooperation with the Enhanced and GCC-partners.
The urgent short to medium term requirements listed in this article, if acted upon, will significantly enhance the possibility for Alliance and Partnership cooperation and capability and competency development in the field of Joint Air Power. The majority of the requirements can be achieved at low to medium costs; this is where NATO should focus its immediate attention. By doing so, NATO will enhance Alliance and Partnership cooperation in the operational domain. This is the most important area, the one most tangible and visible, especially in a crisis and / or conflict situation when NATO is involved.
Taking into account the urgent short to medium term requirements for enhancing Alliance and military Partnership cooperation mentioned in this paper the following key recommendations apply:
First, strengthen the NATO Allied Air Command 24 / 7 C2 Element that supports Commander Allied Air Command in providing an accurate and timely situational awareness picture of political and military developments around the immediate periphery of Europe as well as an overview of current events in the airspace over NATO / Europe.
Second, increase NATO member states’ involvement, in particular NATO / European member states, in NATO Joint Air Power.
Third, develop a multinational NATO Air Warfighting Centre on the basis of the Framework Nation Concept. This will allow a NATO Air Warfighting Centre to gradually develop into a practical hub for NATO Joint Air Power Education, Training, Exercising and Evaluation activities.
Fourth, remedy the specified requirements with a priority 1 and 2 as a matter of urgency.
Military Partnership Cooperation
First, develop a deeper security partnership by providing tailor made individual country Joint Air Power packages for the Enhanced and GCC-partners.
Second, increase operational Partnership cooperation. Priorities must be assigned to specific areas where operational cooperation between NATO and its Enhanced and GCC-partners can be initiated quickly and then gradually developed. Special attention should be focused on Finland and Sweden.
Third, Develop Partnership Air Groups based on NATO’s Framework Nation Concept with a NATO lead nation that creates an information based and practice-oriented Air Group organization that plans and organizes commonly agreed Joint Air Power activities on a yearly basis.
Fourth, remedy the specified requirements with a priority 1 and 2 as a matter of urgency.