Context and Aim
Over the last decade, NATO has been facing a growing number of increasingly diverse security challenges. The 2016 Warsaw Summit Communiqué is clear in its description of the broad range of threats: ‘The Alliance faces a range in security challenges and threats that originate from the east and from the south; from state and non-state actors; from military forces and from terrorist, cyber or hybrid attacks’1. It is especially this latter type of threat that has been given a lot of attention in the last few years. Russia’s involvement in the recent crisis in the eastern part of the Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula caused NATO to take notice by the effective application of Hybrid Warfare techniques. Furthermore, a number of European capitals were the target of a variety of multi-facetted terrorist attacks conducted by radicalised Muslim fundamentalists or supported by Jihadist militant groups. Finally, many NATO member states have been involved in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Daesh, a Salafi jihadist militant group that employs both traditional military practices as well as non-traditional techniques, either overtly or covertly. In short, ISIL benefits from its own application of Hybrid Warfare.
If NATO’s overall intent is to protect and defend ‘our territory and populations against attack’2, it must be capable of deterring and defending against hybrid attacks as well. So far, NATO has taken steps to ensure its ability to effectively address the challenges posed by Hybrid Warfare3. NATO has adopted a strategy and prepared actionable implementation plans expanding its role in countering Hybrid Warfare. NATO’s strategy stresses that NATO and its member states must be able to recognize and attribute hybrid actions, have resilience to resist these actions, be ready to resist and have processes that allow rapid assessment and decision-making and, finally, have the necessary capabilities to be able to respond effectively. It must be clear, however, that the primary responsibility to respond to hybrid threats or attacks rests with the targeted nation, particularly in peacetime. Yet, ‘NATO is prepared to assist an ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign’ and it goes without saying that ‘the Alliance and Allies will be prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence’4.
The JAPCC Study ‘Joint Air Power 2016 following the Warsaw Summit – Urgent Priorities’ focuses on the main areas of concern and interest as expressed by the Heads of State and Government (HOS / G) in the Warsaw Summit Communiqué, one of which is Hybrid Warfare and resilience5. This article, as an integral part of the JAPCC Study, approaches this particular area of concern and interest as it pertains to Joint Air Power. A number of questions will be addressed: ‘Is NATO Joint Air Power prepared to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign?’, ‘Is NATO Joint Air Power prepared to assist an Ally in a Hybrid Conflict situation and prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence?’, and ‘What are the urgent, short to medium term Joint Air Power requirements to effectively cope with hybrid air threats in both situations?’ Finally: ‘How can NATO Joint Air power support the enhancement of resilience and civil preparedness?’ Answering these questions and determining the urgent requirements are the aims of this article.
In his famous work ‘On War’, Clausewitz stressed that it is of utmost importance that ‘the first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature’6. Almost 200 years after publication in 1831, these words are still applicable, especially when and where it comes to a proper understanding of the definition of Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and Hybrid Air Threats.
Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and Hybrid Air Threats
So, what is meant by ‘Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and Hybrid Air Threats’? Paragraph 72 of the Warsaw Summit Communiqué describes Hybrid Warfare as ‘a broad complex, and adaptive combination of conventional and non-conventional means, and overt and covert military, paramilitary and civilian measures, are employed in a highly integrated design by state and non-state actors to achieve their objectives’. Although this is a fairly straight forward definition, this basic definition requires elaboration. First, paragraph 72 does not distinguish between Hybrid Conflict and Hybrid Warfare. The difference is regarding the employment of armed forces; covert use of armed forces in the first case versus the overt use of military forces in the latter. Second, paragraph 72 speaks about ‘military, paramilitary and civilian measures employed by state and non-state actors’. The questions is: ‘Who are these actors?‘
First, there are state and non-state organized military or para-military forces who can conduct conventional (military or para-military) actions and tactics that include high end, technologically developed capabilities. Second, the threat can come from state organized or non-state irregular forces who can conduct non-conventional, asymmetric attacks to achieve their objectives. Third, the threat entails non-state terrorist attacks, conducted by individuals or ‘lone wolves’ up to and including religion inspired fundamentalist terrorist organizations. Fourth, hybrid threats can come from criminals, either individuals or groups. Fifth, hybrid threats can come from state or non-state sponsored attackers within cyberspace.
Part of NATO’s description of Hybrid Warfare in the 2016 Warsaw Summit Communiqué is the phrase ‘to achieve their objectives’. It must be understood that these objectives can be wide ranging and actors in the field of Hybrid Warfare tend to be unclear when it comes to describing their goals. In general, hybrid actors pursue overarching strategic objectives. They can range from raising individual levels of frustration or dissatisfaction to achieving fundamental strategic objectives in the form of structural changes e.g. by creating mass insecurity; confusion; destabilization; and disrupting existing social structures and communities in order to overthrow a Government and / or political system and implement a fundamentalist or extreme religious or political regime.
The resources used in Hybrid Conflict and Hybrid Warfare can include:
- modern, state-of-the-art, military capabilities;
- out-of-date, non-sophisticated or aging military means for guerrilla type hit and run tactics;
- simple or unsophisticated means of terrorist attacks (e.g. cars, trucks, air breathing and other aerial platforms);
- digital means to conduct information operations for propaganda, misinformation or manipulation;
- bombs or self-made explosives to conduct attacks, possibly with Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) (biological or chemical);
- a broad range of tools for criminal activities.
It must be noted that the resources used in Hybrid Warfare include the same capabilities used by conventional and non-conventional armed forces against another country or non-state actor. However, it’s unlikely modern, state-of-the-art, military capabilities will be employed in a Hybrid Conflict situation.
The methods differ according to the objectives and the conditions under which the attacks or the actions take place (in peacetime or in a situation where Article V of the Washington Treaty is invoked). Hybrid attacks can be very complex in nature using a combination of conventional, non-conventional and other activities; normally very well planned, coordinated and executed in a highly integrated manner; and ranging from simple individual attacks to multiple, multi-facetted, cross domain attacks; lethal and non-lethal. In short, hybrid threats are a multi-facetted problem, where the opponent operates in an unpredictable manner throughout the total spectrum of conflict and applying violence at various levels causing severe problems. Hybrid attacks are normally planned and conducted in a highly integrated fashion by non-deterred persons and from a position of strength. The hybrid opponent prefers the indirect approach: capitalizing on the adversaries vulnerabilities, attacking where least expected and where the impact is most effective7.
NATO Joint Air Power and Hybrid (Air) Threats
Since this article focuses on Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare and Hybrid (Air) Threats in connection to Joint Air Power, the question arises ‘What Hybrid Air Threats NATO might face and in what way Joint Air Power can be involved in combatting hybrid threats?’ Hybrid Air Threats can include:
- high (4th and 5th generation) to low end manned and unmanned (remotedly piloted, automated, or autonomously operating) aerial vehicles / systems, which can be stealthy or low observable and operate at different speeds and altitudes;
- rockets, Artillery and Mortars (RAM);
- drones and other (remotely piloted) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which can be kite based, miniaturized, weaponized or non-weaponized.
The aerial threats which are low and slow flying and small can be summarized under the acronym ‘LSS’ e.g. balloons, ultra-light aircraft, gliders and unmanned Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).
Hybrid Air Threats can manifest themselves in the form of airspace violations creating confusion and disruption, Renegade with the intention to perpetrate a terrorist attack, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) (situational awareness and intelligence preparation of the hybrid battlefield), disruption of space based data and information systems and critical air traffic management infrastructure, and, finally, aerial attack to include spraying of WMD potentially endangering human life and causing a significant damage to infrastructure. A specific type of Hybrid Air Threat is called military swarming. It is a battlefield tactic designed to overwhelm or saturate the defences of the principal target or objective with aerial capabilities (e.g. by the simultaneous deployment of large numbers of drones or other miniaturized RPAS).
With Hybrid Air Threats defined, it is important to explain how Joint Air Power can help combat hybrid threats? The chart above shows the relationship between the Core Air Power roles that NATO Joint Air Power can perform and the key features of the hybrid threat spectrum.
From this chart it is clear that all Core Air Power Roles are relevant to at least three domains of the hybrid threat spectrum. Four out of five Core Air Power roles can be employed across virtually the entire threat spectrum. The overall conclusion is that the Core Air Power roles are relevant for conducting air operations and countering Hybrid Air Threats throughout the hybrid threat spectrum. The questions, however, are: ‘Does NATO have the required capabilities and competencies to project Air Power for the purposes of conducting these operations and countering the threats and what are the urgent Joint Air Power priorities?’
Responsibility and Attribution
Before answering these questions it is necessary to address the issues of responsibility and attribution. The First thing that needs to be acknowledged is that defending against Hybrid attacks is not one of NATO’s primary responsibilities, although this responsibility increases as the conditions change. In peacetime therefore categorized as Hybrid Conflict, the primary responsibility to respond to hybrid threats or attacks rests with the targeted nation. In this particular case, NATO can play a role, but the focus is on providing assistance in any stage of a counter hybrid threat campaign. In a situation where Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty is invoked (Hybrid Warfare), NATO member states must determine how they want to counter the hybrid attack(s)8. In 2016 in Warsaw, the HOS / G stressed ‘that the Alliance and Allies will be prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence’. So the questions now are ‘In what way can NATO Joint Air Power assist and are there any urgent Joint Air Power capability and competency requirements for strengthening NATO’s preparedness?
A key issue in countering hybrid threats is attribution. Doubt over attribution weakens countries’ resolve and decision-making in response to an attack. One of the key directions that emanates from NATO’s strategy in countering hybrid threats is that NATO must be able to recognize and attribute hybrid actions. Unless responsibility for the attack is claimed by the actor, assigning blame to an individual, group, state or non-state is extremely difficult. Attribution, therefore, in times of a Hybrid Conflict or crisis situations is a greater problem than during traditional, conventional warfare. The reasons stem from the nature of the threat and the form of hybrid action which includes, predominantly terrorist, criminal and cyberspace attacks. Hybrid Warfare encompasses all domains of the threat spectrum and presents the same problems of attribution of course for terrorist, criminal or cyberspace attacks. However, it is expected that attacks conducted in a conventional or non-conventional warfare situation can be attributed to a group, state or non-state actor with a higher degree of confidence. Conducting air operations against a hybrid opponent can only be conducted if attribution to a state, non-state or group is secured. The baseline, however, is the inherent right of self-defence in case of a direct attack. Attribution is part of a larger collection of legal aspects and challenges of Hybrid Conflict and Warfare. This article is limited in scope to simply noting that the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) might not always be appropriate for a particular situation or effect to be achieved. The LOAC is primarily oriented towards kinetic effects, while Hybrid Warfare employs these as well as a broad range of non-kinetic measures and methods. It is for this reason, that we require conceptual clarity regarding the legal aspects of Hybrid Conflict, Hybrid Warfare, and Hybrid Aerial Threats.
What does all this mean for NATO Joint Air Power? In the next paragraphs the following questions will be addressed: ‘Is NATO prepared to project Joint Air Power to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign?’, ‘Is NATO prepared to use Joint Air Power to assist an Ally in a Hybrid Conflict situation and to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence?’, and ‘What are the urgent, short to medium term Joint Air Power requirements to effectively cope with Hybrid Air Threats in both situations?’
The distinction between the uses of NATO Joint Air Power during peacetime versus a situation where Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty is invoked is important to understand.
NATO Joint Air Power in Peacetime (Hybrid Conflict)
In peacetime, the role of NATO is to assist a member state at any stage of countering a hybrid campaign. In most of the cases, this will likely focus on countering a terrorist, criminal and cyberattack or a combination of these types of attack at the same time. A key issue here is recognition and attribution, of which the latter will be most problematic in a counter hybrid attack campaign. Therefore, it is necessary to prepare for countering more attacks and assist NATO and its Allies in synchronizing, coordinating and executing various lines of operation across multiple ministries, agencies and organizations (multi domain Command and Control (C2))9. NATO’s roles are, particularly with respect to the projection of Joint Air Power, to take action with the aim to prevent further escalation and signal deterrence; and to assist where possible and where it is most needed e.g. in the field of gathering information and data whereby the situational awareness increases (ISR). NATO Air operations in peacetime will be non-offensive and be supportive in nature. Defensive action, e.g. against a civil or military aircraft with the intent to perpetrate a terrorist attack is a national responsibility, although NATO can assist through the proper execution of its Standing Air Policing mission.
An important aspect in peacetime is preserving the security and integrity of the national airspaces of the member states. NATO’s Standing Air Policing mission is carried out under the provision of NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) and plays a fundamental role in airspace security in SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility (AOR). The Air Policing mission consists of air surveillance and control, detection and identification of civil or military aircraft in distress or responding to airborne systems that don’t follow international flight regulations and / or that approach or infringe on the sovereign airspace of NATO member states. The mission also encompasses Air C2 and launching fast jets for a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) for interrogation and shadowing. The main aim of NATO’s air policing mission is the de-escalation of the problem situation.
Since hybrid air threats can take place in various forms, it is of utmost importance that the Air Policing structure is capable of coping with the full range of these threats, to include a Renegade situation (hybrid air threats used with the intent to perpetrate a terrorist attack). In this respect, the traditional force structure of the Standing Air Policing capabilities in NATO appears to have limitations.
First, in peacetime, the NATO Air Commander’s responsibility for responding to a suspected Renegade aircraft includes steps up to and including launching a QRA in order to shadow that aircraft. In the next step in the response, the QRA aircraft are transferred under national authority and the type of follow-on action required rests with the National Governmental Authority (intervention, warning burst and engagement). Following transfer of command authority NATO’s role will be to continue regular Air Policing and monitoring the activity for the situational awareness of NATO’s Air Commander. Having distinct agencies (NATO and national) with separate responsibilities implies a lack of a consolidated approach that weakens the concept of deterrence and unity of effort. As SACEUR is responsible for securing the sovereignty of the airspace in his Area of Operational Responsibility, providing the NATO Air Defence Commander (ADC) the delegated authority and legal framework to execute the full range of Air Policing responsibilities against military, non-military and civil aircraft, without having to transfer any to national authorities, maintains continuity of C2 in the execution of the mission and, consequently, secures NATO’s credibility as a security provider to its member states. It also assures unity of effort and consistency in executing the full range of Air Policing tasks. Finally, it synchronizes NATO overall Air Policing efforts in those situations where member states have already agreed to execute cross-border Renegade operations for those nations that do not possess their own airborne intervention capabilities. To this end, a high level political-military working group should be tasked to assess the feasibility and consequences of such an integrated Air Policing approach in NATO.
Second, the NATO Standing Air Policing organization does not have the full range of air surveillance and control capabilities in order to effectively detect, track and identify the spectrum of hybrid air threats (including very low, slow and small aerial platforms and swarms of drones, as part of the complete listing of all aircraft and other aerial vehicles in the controlled airspace (the so-called Recognized Air Picture (RAP)). There is a need for enhancing the existing air surveillance and control capabilities e.g. through specific signal processing or multi-sensor fusing and tracking capabilities. It is also necessary to invest in the research and development of counter hybrid threat modelling and simulation systems, to address technological gaps, and for testing and validation of new technologies and technological experimentation in the realm of countering hybrid air threats (e.g. defence against UAVs and other LSS-platforms).
Third, there is a requirement for radar technology with thresholds that will prevent any aerial platform or system from operating under ‘the reaction threshold’. Hybrid actors continue to seek aerial threats that can remain under these technological thresholds.
Fourth, NATO’s QRA use fast jets for executing the Air Policing mission. Needed, however, are flying interceptors that can effectively deal with both the traditional and the extended range of possible Renegade air threats? In terms of ‘low, slow, small’ this means armed helicopters or other armed, low speed interceptors.
Fifth, NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence Organization is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In order to execute an uninterrupted Air Policing mission the related mission capabilities must be cyber secure and have sufficient resilience in case of a cyber-attack. Since cyber-attacks form an integral part of the hybrid threat domain, NATO should further assess the cyber resilience of its Air Policing capabilities and its ACCS.
Currently, NATO is responsible for the Air Policing mission over the Baltic States. A number of NATO member states have agreed to execute the air policing mission over the Baltic States on a rotational basis. In peacetime, NATO’s air policing responsibility for civil or military aircraft in distress and aircraft approaching or infringing on a sovereign national airspace does not extend beyond shadowing the aircraft. Handling a Renegade situation is a national task. The problem is that the Baltic States do not have the national capabilities to effectively handle a Renegade situation. It is for this reason that it is advised to assess the political, legal, operational and technical feasibility of establishing effective Renegade arrangements (to include intervention, warning burst and engagement) between the NATO countries that have signed up for temporarily executing the Baltic Air Policing mission and the Baltic States. The legal basis for such an arrangement is a formal treaty.
In terms of NATO’s Joint Air Power Strategy, Air Power doctrine and Allied Joint Publications there is a need for properly addressing the mission, roles, tasks and organization of NATO Joint Air Power and its ACCS in a Hybrid Conflict and Hybrid Warfare situation. There is also a requirement for reviewing the MC 362 / 1 set of Rules of Engagement (RoE) from the perspective of the application of Joint Air Power in Hybrid Conflict and Warfare10.
In peacetime, NATO is to assist a member state at any stage of a hybrid campaign. From a Joint Air Power perspective, NATO should, therefore, assess the conditions in which it might be willing to employ its Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) and NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control (NAEW&CS) capabilities in support of an Ally countering hybrid attacks in a hybrid conflict situation.
NATO should also assess the requirement for network capabilities and structures to operate NATO Joint Air Power in a joint and interagency (civilian-military) environment. To be an effective network, the participating organizations, agencies and departments should agree on an interoperable system and an interactive method of working. First and foremost, this requires a network or a ‘system of systems’, that can be used by Allied Air Command for supporting SACEUR’s Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre (CCOMC) and NATO’s Civil Emergency Planning activities from an operational-tactical level perspective and that can contribute to NATO’s civil emergency activities in case of a hybrid attack. This might be achieved, for example, through sharing information, situational awareness, the operational air picture and specific air advice. In support of this, an Air Advisory Support Team (AAST) could be established in peacetime at the Allied Joint Forces Command level in Brunssum and Naples, where the air expertise in the organization is usually thin. Such an Advisory Team will act as a knowledge and advice centre for the use of Joint Air Power in a situation of a hybrid air attack. Education, training, exercising and validation in peacetime will be an integral part of enhancing the knowledge and skills of this AAST and the leadership at the Joint level in effectively dealing with hybrid attacks in any situation.
NATO Joint Air Power in a Situation Where Article V Is Invoked (Hybrid Warfare)
When article V of the North Atlantic Treaty is invoked, NATO will execute it Essential Core Task of Collective Defence, while at the same time it will continue to deter the opponent or potential opponents from escalating the crisis. Cooperative security activities will also continue in this phase. The difference between the use of NATO Joint Air Power in peacetime and in the situation where Article V is invoked is that NATO would face the full spectrum of Hybrid Air Threats and all forms of action (to include conventional and non-conventional warfare). NATO’s declared intention in this situation is ‘that the Alliance will be prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence’. The main functions for NATO Joint Air Power in a Hybrid Warfare situation are: prepare, deter, defend and support. NATO air policing will transform into a dedicated air defence mission as an integral part of NATINAMDS and NATO’s Air C2 organization.
From an air perspective, Allied Air Command will support NATO’s operational commander in achieving his goals by planning, tasking and executing high to low end, conventional offensive and defensive air operations in the form a dedicated air campaign. Non-conventional attacks by state or non-state actors might be countered if attribution is possible and the target lends itself to the effective use of NATO Joint air Power. The use of air power against terrorist, criminal or cyber-attacks will be possible under the same conditions and limitations as previously described in the paragraph on NATO Joint Air Power in Peacetime.
NATINAMDS forms the backbone of NATO’s integrated structure for effectively dealing with the whole range of hybrid air attacks. Although this is what NATO currently has, there is ample room for improvements in Joint Air Power capabilities and competencies in NATINAMDS. This article will not expand on these shortfalls, except to mention a number of specific Joint Air Power requirements to effectively deal with hybrid air threats in Hybrid Warfare. The JAPCC study, of which this article is a dedicated part, provides a range of focused articles which address the urgent priorities for NATO Joint Air Power in relation to the 2016 main areas of concern and intent of the 2016 Warsaw Summit.
Besides the requirements already listed in the paragraphs on NATO Joint Air Power in peacetime, the specific Joint Air Power requirements for effectively dealing with Hybrid Air Threats in a Hybrid Warfare (Article V) situation are explained below.
First, and above all, the criteria for a hybrid action constituting an act of war and for what constitutes a legitimate military target in such a situation must be established. Joint Air Power doctrine, RoE and responsibilities for dealing with the full spectrum of hybrid threats must be unequivo-cally clear.
Second, in case of a Hybrid Warfare situation, the AASTs at the Allied Joint Forces Command level should be able to transform into a Hybrid Threat Coordination Cell in order to advise and assist the Joint Forces Commander in Brunssum and Naples. In this phase Joint Air Power will be required to cope with the full range of Hybrid (Air) Threats. Personnel with specific Hybrid Warfare knowledge must be available in the original AASTs at the Joint level for when the Teams transform into Hybrid Threat Coordination Cells. This requires adequate education, training and exercising of the AASTs.
Third, in a complex Hybrid Warfare scenario, NATO must be prepared to reckon with one or more integrated and coordinated attacks covering the full range of hybrid threats. This requires a C2 system that has the capability to remain effective under these conditions, particularly with regard to system restoration, business continuity and cyber resilience.
In terms of Hybrid Conflict and Hybrid Warfare, resilience can be defined as the ability to recover from setbacks caused by hybrid threats and to carry on in the face of one or more hybrid opponents. The threat of hybrid attacks have underlined the need for enhancing resilience and preparedness. Not just from a national or governmental, corporate and industrial perspective, but also from a NATO military Command and Force Structure point of view. Resilience and preparedness are two sides of the same coin. Although the primary responsibility to respond to hybrid threats and strengthen resilience and civil preparedness in peacetime rest with each nation, NATO is prepared to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign and, to this end, support to improving resilience can be beneficial. In a situation where Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty is invoked, the Alliance and Allies will be prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence. Resilience guidelines were agreed to by the Defence Ministers at their ministerial meeting in June 2016 and NATO has developed Baseline Requirements for National Resilience. In order to strengthen the internal organizational resilience of NATO as a whole, it is important to assess the internal strengths and weaknesses in NATO’s resilience, develop internal baseline requirements and develop an action plan to remedy the most important shortfalls.
Proposing how NATO Joint Air power can support the enhancement of resilience and preparedness is an implicit aim of this article. There is a range of urgent, short to medium Joint Air Power requirements that, if resolved, can strengthen NATO’s preparedness to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign in peacetime and to effectively cope with Hybrid Warfare and hybrid threats.
The intent of NATO’s aim is to ‘protect their populations and territory against a range of security challenges and threats, from military forces and from terrorist, cyber and hybrid attacks’. The proposed urgent, short to medium term NATO Joint Air Power requirements in this article will support Allied nations in peacetime in their response to hybrid attacks, thereby strengthening the resilient homeland defence and critical infrastructure (e.g. the Air Traffic Management capabilities) and the continuation of government and other essential services. The urgent, short to medium term NATO Joint Air Power requirements in a situation where Article V is involved are needed to strengthen NATO’s capabilities and competencies in executing it most important Core Essential Task i.e. Collective Defence. This also means providing direct and indirect support to NATO member states in effectively countering Hybrid Warfare.
It is very important NATO and its member states seek opportunities to maximize cooperation. Countering hybrid threats requires a multifaceted, multi-agency, inter-ministerial, joint and combined, civilian-military approach. It is critical to establish a networked organization that operates together in peacetime and encompasses, as much as possible, key civilian and military players in the field of security and defence. An important aspect in strengthening partnerships is the collaboration between NATO and the EU. The focus should be on a series of actions in concrete areas, as expressed in the 2016 Warsaw Summit Communiqué, including countering hybrid threats, enhancing resilience, defence capacity building, cyber defence, maritime security and exercises. Time is of the essence. Concrete results should be addressed out of cycle of the regular meetings of Foreign Ministers or Defence Ministers.
Requirements: Impact – Cost – Priority
The preceding paragraphs provided an overview of urgent, short to medium term requirements for NATO Joint Air Power to effectively deal with Hybrid Conflict in peacetime, Hybrid Warfare (Article V invoked), hybrid air threats and requirements for NATO Joint Air Power in enhancing resilience and civil preparedness. A table of prioritized, short to medium term requirements is included on pages 187 – 188. 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 Joint Air Power urgent, short to medium term requirements for peacetime and in a situation where Article V is invoked.
The prioritization matrix reveals a number of interesting points:
First, almost all requirements, if rectified, will significantly improve NATO Joint Air Power’s preparedness to assist an Ally or Allies in any stage of a hybrid campaign and to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence. Second, the majority of the requirements are priority 1 and 2. This is where NATO should focus its immediate attention. Third, a significant number of requirements can be addressed without incurring high costs. Fourth, although high impact and high cost result in a priority 3 classification for Requirement number 6, the high impact alone implies a significant effect on NATO Joint Air Power’s effectiveness in dealing with the extended range of possible renegade air threats, in particular the low, slow, and small airborne platforms. For this reason, and if the conditions allow, there is sufficient justification to take appropriate action. In addition, costs can be reduced if existing slow moving flying interceptors can be employed. Fifth, the cost indicator is an initial, rough categorization that requires refinement in the follow-up process.
The 2016 Warsaw Summit Communiqué is clear in its description of the broad range of threats the Alliance faces. ‘They originate from the east and from the south, from state and non-state actors, from military forces and from terrorist, cyber or hybrid attacks.’ This article focused on the latter aspect. Hybrid attacks can occur in peacetime in the form of terrorist, criminal or cyberspace attacks. The Hybrid Conflict phase, is where hybrid actors refrain from the overt use of armed forces. In this phase, NATO is prepared to assist an Ally at any stage of a hybrid campaign. In a situation where Article V is invoked the Alliance and Allies will be prepared to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence. In Hybrid Warfare, actors resort to the overt use of conventional or non-conventional armed forces against another country or non-state actor, as well as potentially terrorist, criminal or cyberspace attacks at the same time and in an integrated fashion. These attacks can be complex in nature using a combination of conventional, non-conventional and other activities, normally very well planned, coordinated and executed in a highly integrated design and ranging from simple individual attacks to multiple, multi-facetted, cross domain attacks, lethal and non-lethal. Hybrid Conflict and Hybrid Warfare both present a wide range of Hybrid (Air) Threats.
NATO Joint Air Power is of great importance for countering Hybrid Air Threats throughout the hybrid threat spectrum. This article raised the question ‘whether NATO Joint Air Power has the required capabilities and competencies for conducting these operations and countering the threats and what are the urgent Joint Air Power priorities?’ The answer is that there is ample room for improvement and for enhancing Joint Air Power capabilities and competencies. This article listed a broad range of urgent, short to medium term requirements for NATO Joint Air Power in peacetime and in an Article V situation. The realization of these requirements will better prepare NATO Joint Air Power and its supporting Air organization to assist Allies at any stage of a hybrid campaign and to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence.
The urgent priorities focus on three main areas. First, the need for achieving clarity in NATO’s Joint Air Power Strategy, Air Power doctrine, RoE and in the legal aspects and responsibilities for NATO Joint Air Power’s effectiveness in countering the full spectrum of hybrid threats. Second, the need for enhancing existing air surveillance and control capabilities and implementing distinctive radar technology thresholds for effectively dealing with the full range of Hybrid Aerial Threats. Third, the need for establishing in the organization of the Allied Joint Forces Commands a well-educated, trained, exercised and validated AAST that will act as a knowledge and advice and assist centre for the effective use of NATO Joint Air Power in a hybrid air attack situation in peacetime (Hybrid Conflict) and can, if necessary, act as a Hybrid Threat Coordination Cell in a situation where Article V is invoked (Hybrid Warfare).
Almost all requirements are priority 1 and 2 and, if rectified, will significantly improve NATO Joint Air Power’s preparedness to assist an Ally or Allies in any stage of a hybrid campaign and to counter Hybrid Warfare as part of collective defence. These are where NATO should focus its immediate attention.
Taking into account the urgent Joint Air Power priorities mentioned in this paper the following main recommendations apply:
- First, clarify conceptually NATO’s Joint Air Power Strategy and Doctrine, the applicable RoE, and the legal constraints and restraints for NATO Joint Air Power effectiveness in countering the full spectrum of hybrid threats.
- Second, enhance existing air surveillance and control capabilities and implement radar technology thresholds for detecting, tracking and identifying the full range of hybrid aerial threats.
- Third, establish in the organization of Joint Forces Commands a well-educated, trained, exercised and validated AAST that will act as a knowledge and advice and assist centre for the effective use of NATO Joint Air Power in a hybrid air attack situation in peacetime. This AAST to be able to transform into a Hybrid Threat Coordination Cell in a situation where Article V is invoked (Hybrid Warfare situation).
- Fourth, remedy the specified priority 1 and 2 requirements as a matter of urgency.