The NATO Air and Space Power Contribution to Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Operations
This publication provides a summary of the NATO Air and Space Power contribution to Counter-IED (C-IED) operations.
In seeking to draw together into a single document the full extent of NATO’s Air and Space power contribution to C-IED operations, this Primer addresses an area that has increasingly come to dominate current operations. It considers the factors influencing the employment of Air and Space (A&S) capabilities available to commanders, and summarises the issues associated with their use. Drawn largely from research conducted by the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC) in respect of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations in Afghanistan, it is nevertheless intended to be relevant to all contemporary 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 Air and Space power in the C-IED role, both operationally and in Training and Education (T&E) environments. It is not intended to offer authoritative or definitive advice, nor is it a substitute for specialist C-IED regulation, policy or reference documents. Instead it is intended to provide a point of access into a topic that has in many ways come to dominate contemporary operations, and the guidance, principles and capabilities presented in it reflect, and are consistent with, current NATO doctrine. Reference to organisational structures and processes is intended to demonstrate their importance to C-IED operations rather than as a critique of those structures and processes, and it is acknowledged that they are likely 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.
The JAPCC gratefully acknowledges the enthusiasm, candour and expertise of all those individuals and organisations responding to requests for support in producing this Primer and the earlier staff papers from which it is derived.
This Primer provides a summary of the principle means whereby NATO C-IED operations are supported by its Air and Space (A&S) power capabilities. In order to offer a self-contained reference source, it sets out the IED threat as it exists in current operations, making the point that IED use by adversaries is not necessarily limited to Counter-Insurgency (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 an A&S power contribution, it utilises the approach adopted in current NATO C-IED doctrine (AJP-3.15), using the three concurrent strategies and six Key Operational Activities set out in that document as a structure within which to set the various capabilities brought to bear by A&S power. The document goes on to consider the contribution made to C-IED effort by T&E, 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 operations, 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 weapons system, to impact at the operational and strategic levels.
Chapter II – Characteristics of IEDs: Chapter II sets out the basic 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 doctrine, before considering how this doctrine may support the conduct of C-IED operations. 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 operations, and the need for such processes to be swift and effective, fully understood and properly applied. This Chapter also briefly considers recent developments in NATO’s strategic C-IED structures.
Chapter IV – The NATO Air and Space Power Contribution to C-IED: This Chapter considers how NATO A&S capabilities can support operations aimed at defeating the device and attacking the network. Against each strategy it sets out the factors and considerations associated with the use of airborne and Space-based ISR, Electronic Warfare (EW), Air Mobility, and kinetic and non-kinetic effects. In each of these areas it highlights the importance of T&E, and again reiterates the critical role played by processes and organisational structures in exploiting fully the available capabilities.
Chapter V – Training and Education (T&E) Considerations: This Chapter describes the way in which the third element of NATO C-IED doctrine, Train the Force, represents both a specific strategy in its own right, and pervades all aspects of C-IED activity via the need to provide appropriate T&E to all those personnel engaged in the C-IED effort. It identifies three discrete training audiences, providing examples of the type of training required, and considers the needs of a fourth, in the form of Host Nation training 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 needs of particular missions and tasks. It identifies the importance of bringing together current capabilities, and considers the relevance of new technological developments in terms of counter –device efforts to detect and disrupt or destroy emplaced IEDs, and in counter-network operations.
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.