NATO Air and Space Power in Counter-IED Operations
A Primer – Second Edition
This publication provides a summary of the Air and Space (A&S) Power contribution to NATO’s approach to Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) operations.
In seeking to draw together into a single document the full extent of NATO’s A&S Power contribution to C-IED, this Primer addresses an issue that has increasingly come to dominate the stabilisation and counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in which the Alliance is engaged. It considers the factors influencing the employment of A&S capabilities available to commanders, and summarises the issues associated with their use. While offering contemporary real world examples, it is intended to be relevant to any current and future conflict scenarios where the use of IEDs presents a threat to Alliance forces and, therefore, to mission success.
This Primer is designed to provide a readily-accessible reference document for use by those personnel with an interest in, or responsibility for, the application of NATO A&S Power in C-IED, both operationally and in Education and Training (E&T) environments. It is not intended to offer authoritative or definitive advice, nor is it a substitute for relevant doctrine, policy or reference documents. Instead, it attempts to provide a point of entry into a topic that has come to characterise current operations, and the guidance, principles and capabilities presented in it reflect, and are consistent with, NATO’s approach to C-IED. Reference to organisational structures and processes is included in order to demonstrate their importance to C-IED operations rather than as a critique of them, and it is expected that these will continue to evolve over time; nevertheless, their importance in facilitating the maximum exploitation of all available capabilities, including those provided by A&S assets, cannot be overstated. It should also be noted that the dynamic nature of C-IED results in constant evolution, not only of the processes that support C-IED operations, but also in the terminology used. While this Primer utilises the terminology currently employed when describing, for example, the C-IED Areas of Activity referred to later, this is likely to change on a continuous basis. The underlying principles identified in this Primer are, however, more enduring. The reader is therefore invited to focus on the principles themselves, rather than the labels currently attached to them.
The JAPCC gratefully acknowledges the enthusiasm, candour and expertise of all those individuals and organisations responding to requests for support in producing this Primer.
This Primer provides a summary of the means whereby NATO C-IED operations are supported by its A&S capabilities. In order to offer a self-contained reference source, it sets out the current IED threat, making the point that IED use by adversaries is not necessarily limited to COIN operations but may also feature in the full range of conflict scenarios. It goes on to consider the generic characteristics of IEDs and their use by an adversary. In discussing the specifics of the A&S Power contribution, it utilises the existing approach adopted by NATO, using three mutually supporting and complementary pillars, underpinned by understanding and intelligence and relying on five overlapping areas of activity as a structure within which to set the various capabilities brought to bear by A&S Power. The document goes on to consider the specific contribution made by E&T within the Prepare the Force pillar, summarises emerging technological trends in the A&S domain, and concludes with a reiteration of the key points emerging from this review.
Chapter I – Introduction: Chapter I introduces the importance of the role played by NATO A&S Power in C-IED, and states the aim and scope of the Primer. It assesses the likely enduring and evolving nature of the IED threat, identifying the perceived benefits to an adversary of IEDs and their potential, as an essentially tactical-level weapon system, to impact at the operational and strategic levels.
Chapter II – Characteristics of IEDs: Chapter II sets out the generic systems and technologies that characterise the design of IEDs, including their categorisation based on mode of initiation and method of deployment. It considers the nature of the likely Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) of those seeking to use IEDs, and emphasises the agility with which such TTPs can evolve to overcome advances in C-IED capabilities. It identifies the development of simpler IEDs which, through the selective use of materials and a better understanding of C-IED capabilities, are no less of a threat.
Chapter III – Countering the IED Threat: Chapter III identifies C-IED principles and sets out NATO’s C-IED approach, before considering how this may support the conduct of C-IED. It discusses the relationships that exist between C-IED and COIN operations, and how these relationships influence the role played by A&S Power. It highlights the importance of processes that support C-IED, and the need for such processes to be responsive, predictive and agile, fully understood and consistently applied. This Chapter also briefly considers developments in NATO’s C-IED structures.
Chapter IV – The NATO A&S Contribution to C-IED: This Chapter considers how NATO A&S capabilities can support operations aimed at attacking IED networks and defeating IEDs once emplaced. Against each supporting pillar, it sets out the factors and considerations associated with the use of airborne and Space-based Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Electronic Warfare (EW), Air Mobility, and kinetic and non-kinetic effects. In each of these areas, it highlights the importance of E&T within the prepare the force supporting pillar, and reiterates the critical role played by processes and organisational structures in exploiting fully the available capabilities.
Chapter V – Prepare the Force – Education and Training (E&T) Considerations: This Chapter describes the way in which, within the prepare the force pillar, E&T pervades all aspects of C-IED activity via the need to provide appropriate E&T to all those personnel engaged in C-IED. It identifies three discrete training audiences, providing examples of the types of education and specific training required, and considers the needs of a fourth, in the form of Host Nation (HN) E&T requirements.
Chapter VI – Technological Developments and Future Prospects: This Chapter considers the potential for innovative technological solutions to offer significant improvement in C-IED A&S capability, against a background of the need to gain a better understanding of both existing technological capabilities, and the requirements of particular missions and tasks. It identifies the importance of bringing together current capabilities, and considers the relevance of new technological developments in terms both of Attack the Networks and Defeat the Device activities.
Chapter VII – Points for Consideration: This Chapter takes the form of a summarising conclusion. It brings together the key points identified in the Primer in order to provide an easily accessible summary of issues, factors and considerations that may be of relevance to readers.