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First NATO Joint Air Power Strategy Emphasizes Integral Role of Domain

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NATO released its first Joint Air Power Strategy yesterday, stressing the integral role the domain plays in all of the alliance’s tasks.

This is the first joint strategy released since the alliance’s maritime strategy came out in 2011.

The strategy spells out the importance of air power in collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security. It is key to deterring Russia and projecting stability beyond the borders of NATO. It is also vital for the struggle against terrorism.

“A balanced and innovative approach to joint air power that understands, accepts and mitigates risks will provide a coherent military capacity, enhancing the development of a credible and flexible NATO posture,” the report says.

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The flexibility and speed of air power is a key to countering the threats, “which are more diverse, complex, rapidly evolving and demanding than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” the report says. “This diverse picture is further complicated by easy access to technology, the ability to limit or deny access and maneuverability, and the capacity to disrupt command and control networks.”

Evolving Threats

Future challenges and threats to the alliance will be transnational and multidimensional in nature and will likely have long-term consequences for peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region. The strategy notes there is no guarantee that the alliance will always retain air dominance.

The strategy recognizes that the alliance depends on air and space capabilities in and around all possible terrain and environments. “The development, proliferation and integration of adversary ballistic and cruise missiles, advanced layered air defense, cyber and electronic warfare systems will change the dynamics of alliance air operations, which have more recently been conducted in permissive conditions,” according to the report. “Forces will need the ability to operate despite the existence and further proliferation of such capabilities, which may result in threat environments ranging from permissive to highly contested.”

These problems will become greater in the future, the strategy notes.

The strategy covers the importance of the cyber domain to air operations, saying the successful use of air power requires robust and securely networked command and control. “The protection of the network will become as important as the protection of the platform,” the report says. “Forces will also need to protect against manipulation of data and information, and should be able to validate and verify data to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and derived from trusted sources.”

The joint strategy is not limited to conventional deterrence, conventional actions, integrated air and missile defense and nuclear deterrence. Air power enables situational awareness and understanding while providing the political leaders with agile means to rapidly change posture, escalating or de-escalating through appropriate measures as required.

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This is a joint strategy, and it provides a blueprint for allied nations as they build air and space capabilities. “Since [Joint Air Power] includes elements operating in the air, maritime, land and cyber domains, supported by space, it represents one of the strongest drivers for the integration of multi-domain operations, including the capacity to conduct [command and control] from the air,” the report says.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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