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Joint Air & Space Power Conference 2018

The Fog of Day Zero – Joint Air & Space in the Vanguard

Conference Read Ahead

The Significance of Day Zero

By Lieutenant General Joachim Wundrak, DEU AF
Executive Director, JAPCC


The Executive Director’s Closing Remarks

The issue of deterrence was raised extensively in previous JAPCC Conferences: 2015 in the context of ‘Air Power and Strategic Communications’, 2016 with regard to ‘Joint Air Operations in a Degraded Environment’, and 2017 under the headline of ‘The Role of Joint Air Power in NATO Deterrence’. It is therefore entirely appropriate that this year’s Conference is dedicated to examining the indicators of failing deterrence, along with the situation when deterrence fails and Joint Air & Space Power is needed as part of NATO’s response to a crisis and/or war. Hence ‘The Fog of Day Zero: Joint Air & Space in the Vanguard’ was adopted as this year’s Conference theme.

As the Executive Director of the Joint Air Power Competence Centre I want to offer my perspective on some issues which are, in my opinion, relevant in the context of our Conference theme.

‘Day Zero’ can be seen as the early phase of a conflict and not necessarily as a concrete day. The ‘Fog of Day Zero’ implies that there might be activities happening that portend a crisis or war and we don’t realize it, and may not be able to positively identify the instigator. This becomes evident in a hybrid threat environment, when a hostile actor intentionally exploits ambiguity. The evolution of the crisis in eastern Ukraine since 2014 is an apt example. Unclear situational awareness and uncertain situations may prevent or slow down NATO authorities’ ability to reach a decision to respond to a threat. Besides a discussion of ‘what is Day Zero’ I expect the Conference to examine the decision making process within NATO and the capabilities and vulnerabilities of NATO’s Joint Air Power: Are we prepared well enough to deal with such an unclear situation?

In the past NATO has continuously adapted itself to the changing security environment with the resources and the resolve to guarantee the Alliance’s security. Since the 2014 Ukraine crisis, NATO’s emphasis has returned to collective defense whilst taking a 360 degree approach to projecting stability and cooperative security given the wider understanding of interrelated crises and security challenges. Polarization within and between states, power politics and competition between major powers have increased the potential for instability. Other trends include state and non-state actors using hybrid and cyber tools to impact the security environment in the grey zone below the threshold of conflict. So today, the Alliance must engage in both collective defense and crisis management at the same time.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its military build-up changed the Alliance’s security environment completely. Since then Allies have implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defense since the Cold War. To counter the Russian threat NATO has taken many decisions at the NATO Summits in Wales 2014 and Warsaw 2016 like the Readiness Action Plan (RAP), the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), the enhanced NATO Response Force (eNRF), enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) and others. However, if deterrence fails, for example if a Russian snap exercise like ZAPAD 2017 turns over into real military operations, it takes time for the Alliance ground forces to counter an attack. If Russian troops take the famous ‘Suwalki Gap’ and link up with Kaliningrad, the Baltic States will be cut off from NATO territory. There is no doubt that Joint Air Power would be NATO’s first responder to such a situation, hence ‘Joint Air & Space Power in the Vanguard’. This example raises numerous concerns that should be discussed during our Conference, including: NATO’s rapid reaction capabilities; Air Command and Control; the A2AD problem; the quantity, quality and readiness of our air forces; air transport for our ground troops; ISR assets; interoperability; jointness; sustainability; and resilience.

This Read Ahead is not all-inclusive, it merely provides food for thought and a good starting point for discussion by addressing various aspects which are relevant for the Conference theme. The chapter on Threat Awareness describes a broad spectrum of evolving threats and how NATO should prioritize its efforts to ensure success. The article from The Economist ‘Russia’s conventional forces outgun NATO near its borders’ gives an impression on the amount of combat power Russia can concentrate at very short notice in the Baltic region and why the Alliance is possibly ill-prepared to deter limited Russian aggression. Possible conflict scenarios in the space and cyberspace domains are described in subsequent chapters, necessary considerations are listed and a number of questions raised. The chapter about Force Protection highlights various aspects of the threat for NATO forces and comes to the conclusion that NATO cannot hope to protect itself completely from all the challenges that are currently possible. We have included an article previously published on which emphasizes that ‘Resilience’ is a core element of collective defense. Chapters on Logistics and NATO-EU Cooperation round out this menu of challenges.

I want to highlight the Training & Exercise chapter in this Read Ahead. It addresses the way we prepare our men and women for the new security environment and for a peer-to-peer or near-peer conflict. Exercises do not need to look good, they need to be good! The article gives a very realistic description of today’s exercise situation and I’m sure that the Conference will have an in depth discussion about mentality, training and exercises.

I invite you to visit our Conference website to further explore details regarding keynote speakers, panels and the registration process for this year’s Conference:

In closing, I hope that you have found the articles in this Conference Read Ahead informative and enlightening. My desire is that these articles will provoke thought and stimulate discussion about the role of Joint Air & Space power in the early phase of a conflict; and that they will entice you to join a broad group of international colleagues and share your thoughts and ideas with us.

I sincerely hope to see you this fall in Essen!