For the First Time in Its History, NATO Releases Joint Air Power Strategy

NATO and Swedish aircraft participating in BALTOPS 2016 (photo: Airman Erin Babis/USAF)NATO Joint Air Power (JAP) plays a key role in supporting the accomplishment of NATO’s three core tasks – Collective Defence, Crisis Management and Cooperative Security – including the Alliance’s strengthened Deterrence and Defence posture, NATO’s efforts in Projecting Stability, and NATO’s role in the International Community’s fight against terrorism. A balanced and innovative approach to JAP, that understands, accepts and mitigates risks, will provide a coherent military capacity, enhancing the development of a credible and flexible NATO posture..

DEFINITION OF JOINT AIR POWER: Capturing the collective capabilities and capacity of air, land, maritime and special operations forces, JAP is the ability to coordinate, control, and exploit the air domain in the pursuit of Alliance objectives….

[F]or the first time since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has to be able to conduct operations against any peer – state actor. As a result, the future operating environment may be one in which air superiority can neither be assured at the onset of operations nor, once obtained, be an enduring condition….

Given the trend that engagements during conflict occur in more densely populated areas, detecting and targeting, while considering the Law of Armed Conflict, will become increasingly challenging as urbanisation continues to proliferate and megacities emerge.

.Advances in technology create opportunities for increased and improved exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) by the Alliance. However, due to increased risks of its interference or degradation as well as the fact that adversaries will use actions against information systems, emitters and sensors to disrupt Allied operations, innovative approaches will also need to be developed to reduce Allied EMS vulnerability.

.In the future, the successful use of JAP will be more dependent upon a robust and securely networked environment, including integrated and interoperable networks that will enable JAP to be exploited to the maximum extent. Deployed or remotely operated systems and support operations will use expansive, networked infrastructure which, in return, need to be included in prevention, detection, resilience, recovery and defence from all forms of cyber-attack. The protection of the network will become as important as the protection of the platform. Forces will also need to protect against manipulation of data and information, and should be a ble to validate and verify data to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and derived from trusted sources.

Increasing reliance on cyber and space-based capabilities by Alliance forces presents vulnerabilities for adversaries to negate critical NATO capabilities through degradation, denial or destruction, whilst providing opportunities for the Alliance to integrate such capabilities with JAP for kinetic and non-kinetic effect. Both the resilience and exploitation of such capabilities is therefore a critical requirement that future development should address.

JAP’s support to the Collective Defence task includes, but is not limited to, conventional deterrence, conventional actions, Integrated Air and Missile Defence, and nuclear deterrence. JAP supports the political and military requirement for situational awareness and understanding while providing the political level with agile means to rapidly change posture, escalating or de-escalating through appropriate measures as required. JAP protects and defends NATO’s territory, populations and military forces from attacks, including ballistic missiles. JAP also provides the capacity for operations which can contain or delay an adversary when the Alliance is either surprised or engaged elsewhere. Facilitated through the attributes of speed and reach, support operations such as strategic lift and air-refuelling capacity enable JAP to contribute to the transatlantic link, demonstrate solidarity and cohesion, and help reassure and reinforce Allies in an agile and responsive way. Finally, JAP’s contribution to both conventional actions and nuclear deterrence provide options to address the challenges of facing a nuclear capable adversary in peace, crisis and conflict….

JAP’s decisive influence can be exercised through its attack role, which can be executed on very short notice. Attack has the capacity to generate effects from the tactical to the strategic level through the threat or the use of force, by kinetic or non-kinetic means, including conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities….

JAP must be sufficiently robust and resilient to operate in a degraded or denied cyber environment. Moreover, national contributions to cyber operations can further enable effective JAP applications. The effective integration of Cyber into JAP operations will leverage the Alliance multi-domain approach in a synergistic way both in kinetic and non-kinetic effects….

Due to the criticality of JAP-supporting enablers such as space assets, cyber, and EMS operations, a growth in the demand for Subject Matter Experts in these areas is anticipated and will need to be considered….

NATO requires agile, coordinated multi-domain ISR as a permanent task, with a standing Joint Air C2 structure in place to oversee its operation. The Alliance should acquire the capability to analyse and rapidly disseminate various JISR products that are releasable to a multi-national audience. NATO must strive for improved policies that will drive collaboration, integration, and partnership with other nations to ensure that pertinent intelligence may be shared in a timely manner….

JAP should continue to exploit potential lower cost capabilities such as directed energy in support of counter-air operations and unmanned and/or autonomous systems across all core roles. Striving to maintain technological advantage can mitigate risk through the accurate delivery of effects. However, when leveraging advanced technology, sufficient quantity of assets, including low technology such as swarming drones, must be maintained to execute all roles of JAP….

Adversaries, especially those in the asymmetric environment, are acutely aware of the impact of air power which is often essential for success. Therefore, limiting its use will be a central element of adversarial information operations; notably, this will include claims of civilian casualties, or the exploitation of events involving civilian casualties. NATO cannot afford to have its air power capabilities unnecessarily constrained and this makes it even more essential that the communications aspects are taken account of in planning and execution of air operations. Effective StratCom is a critical requirement in diplomatic and informational environments to protect NATO’s freedom of action in the air such that the Alliance can maximise the effects from its airborne capabilities.

Image: NATO and Swedish aircraft participating in BALTOPS 2016 (photo: Airman Erin Babis/USAF)