NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence

  • Last updated: 30 Jul. 2014 17:01

NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence is the integration of capabilities and overlapping operations of all services (air, land and maritime forces) to deter and defend all Alliance territory, populations and forces to ensure freedom of action by negating an adversary’s ability to achieve adverse effects from its air and missile capabilities. It includes a network of interconnected systems to detect, track, classify, identify and monitor airborne objects, and – if necessary – to intercept them using surface-based or airborne weapons systems, as well as the procedures necessary to employ the systems.

NATO member countries started working together in the 1970s to establish an integrated air defence structure and system, combining national assets supplemented as needed by NATO elements. Operating together is both more effective and more efficient in protecting against air attacks than national air defence systems operating independently. With the advent of an Alliance ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability, this structure is now known as the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS). It comes under the command and control of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). The NATINAMDS is a cornerstone of NATO air and missile defence policy, and a visible indication of cohesion, shared responsibility and solidarity across the Alliance.

  • Components

    The NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System is comprised of the four functional areas of ‘Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence’ ‘Surveillance’, ‘Active Air Defence’ and ‘Passive Air Defence’. All four functional areas contribute to the Defensive Counter Air (DCA) mission and provide the basis for the protection of Alliance populations, territory and forces and the projection of air and missile defence firepower.

    Depending on the mission, NATO Allies commit forces (land, air and maritime) which are assigned to SACEUR. However, the decision on the size and shape of the forces and their equipment to be provided remains a national responsibility. 

    The Air Command and Control System

    Air Command and Control (Air C2) is essential to the success of any operation. The Air C2 structure in NATO is a patchwork of disparate and aging systems that in many cases are reaching the end of their planned operational life.

    In recognition of the increasingly joint nature of military operations – as well as of the need to replace aging equipment – NATO has developed a new and more robust capability that will be a C2 system for all air operations. This system, called Air Command and Control System (ACCS), will facilitate the planning, tasking, execution and coordination of all integrated air and missile defence missions in peacetime, crisis and conflict. ACCS will support all of NATO’s static and deployed operations and missions.

  • Tasks

    NATO air policing

    NATO air policing is a peacetime mission which requires an Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS), an Air Command and Control (Air C2) structure and Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) (QRA(I)) aircraft to be available on a 24/7 basis.. This enables the Alliance to detect, track and identify to the greatest extent possible all aerial objects approaching or operating within NATO airspace so that violations and infringements can be recognised, and the appropriate action taken.

    Although not all Allies possess the necessary means to provide air policing of their airspace, other countries provide assistance when needed to ensure that no country is left at a disadvantage and equality of security is provided for all.

    SACEUR is responsible for the conduct of the NATO air policing mission..

    Theatre ballistic missile defence

    In 2010, NATO fielded an Interim theatre ballistic missile defence capability to protect Alliance forces against ballistic missile threats.

    Ballistic missile defence

    At the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, Allied leaders decided to develop a ballistic missile defence (BMD) capability to pursue collective defence. Specifically, they decided that the scope of the current Active Layered Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (ALTBMD) programme’s command, control and communication capabilities would be expanded beyond the capability to protect deployed forces to also include NATO European territory, forces and populations.

    The United States’ European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) and other possible national contributions were welcomed as valuable national contributions to the NATO BMD architecture.

    In May 2012 at the Chicago Summit, NATO leaders declared that the Alliance had achieved an Interim NATO BMD capability. This is a significant first step in implementing NATO’s BMD capability. It offers the maximum coverage within available means to defend NATO’s populations, territory and forces across southern Europe against a ballistic missile attack. The Alliance remains committed to installing full BMD coverage for all NATO European territory by the end of this decade.

  • Mechanisms

    The Air and Missile Defence Committee (AMDC) is the senior multinational policy advisory and coordinating body regarding all elements of NATO’s integrated air and missile defence, and relevant air power aspects. It reports directly to the North Atlantic Council (NAC).

    The Military Committee Working Group (Air Defence) is responsible for reviewing, advising and making recommendations on air and missile defence issues to NATO’s Military Committee.

    Other groups dealing with air and missile defence-related issues include NATO’s Defence Policy and Planning Committee (Reinforced) with particular responsibilities on ballistic missile defence, the Missile Defence Project Group, the BMD Programme Office, and the NATO-Russia Council Missile Defence Working Group. In October 2013, NATO-Russia missile defence-related discussions were paused by Russia, and in April 2014, NATO suspended all cooperation with Russia in response to the Ukraine crisis.

    AMDC and cooperation with partners

    Since 1994, the AMDC has maintained a dialogue with NATO partner countries to promote mutual understanding, transparency and confidence in air defence matters of common interest.

    The air defence partner cooperation programme includes fact-finding meetings with air defence experts, seminars and workshops, visits to air defence facilities and installations, joint analytical studies and a programme for the exchange of unclassified air situation data.