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Cyberwarfare and future megacities threaten air dominance, NATO report says

A NATO E-3A aircraft leaves formation after performing mid-air refueling training over Central Europe with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing, May 17, 2018. (SHAWN MONK/U.S. AIR FORCE)

Advances in air defense and electronic warfare systems by adversaries will threaten allied dominance in the years ahead, according to a new NATO air power strategy billed as the first of its kind since the U.S.-led alliance was founded in 1949.

The Joint Air Power Strategy (full document) also cautions that the emergence of densely populated “megacities” in the years ahead will make targeting enemies increasingly difficult.

“NATO’s strategy holds that allied air forces must be able to fight in all terrains and environments, including heavily defended and congested airspace,” the alliance said in a statement Tuesday. “While current NATO air operations will continue, the document provides a blueprint for the development of airpower doctrines and new capabilities.”

The 11-page document, which outlines a range of dangers, argues threats are more varied and formidable than any time since the end of the Cold War. While it doesn’t explicitly mention Russia, the strategy points out that allies must contend with “near peer” adversaries for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Russia has invested heavily in sophisticated air defenses designed to challenge NATO.

“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,” the strategy states.

The strategy also describes an operating environment in which cyberattacks and enemy access to sophisticated technology pose a threat to networks that allies depend on to operate.

“The protection of the network will become as important as the protection of the platform,” the strategy says.

The mix of threats — both state and non-state, conventional and cyber — adds up to an environment that “will likely have long-term consequences for peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region,” according to the strategy document.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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