North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the military alliance of 29 independent member countries, has come out with its joint airpower strategy to deal with emerging threats and contingencies. According to the strategy unveiled on June 26, 2018, NATO air forces must be able to defend against peer competitors and anticipate the growing role of cyber and space-based assets. While air power has played a central role in NATO’s collective defence and crisis management for decades, the strategy is the first of its kind since NATO was founded in 1949.
“For almost 70 years, airpower has been a core part of NATO’s military capabilities. From deterring the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to operations in the Balkans in the 1990s and the fight against international terrorism in the deserts of Afghanistan, air power has helped to protect our people and achieve our political objectives,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a press release. She added: “As we take steps to increase the readiness of armed forces across the Alliance, the new strategy will help ensure that allied air forces remain world-class, flexible and ready for any possible contingencies.”
The new strategy lays out the current and future security environment in which allied air forces are likely to operate in. Acknowledging that decades of uncontested air operations may be coming to a close, the strategy cautions that modern air defence systems, cyber and electronic warfare could impact NATO air operations. The document also makes the case for special forces, maritime and cyber units to better support of air power with intelligence, targeting support and post-strike assessments.
NATO’s strategy holds that allied air forces must be able to fight in all terrains and environments, including heavily defended and congested airspace. While current NATO air operations will continue, the document provides a blueprint for the development of airpower doctrines and new capabilities. The last comparable document, the Alliance’s maritime strategy, was released in 2011.