Multinational capability cooperation
To carry out its missions and tasks, NATO needs Allies to invest in interoperable, cutting-edge and cost-effective equipment. To that end, NATO plays an important role in helping nations decide how and where to invest in their defence. The Alliance also supports Allies in identifying and developing multinational cooperative projects to deliver the key defence capabilities needed for Alliance security.
- NATO is helping Allies to identify, initiate and advance opportunities for multinational capability cooperation in key areas such as air-to-air refuelling, ammunition, maritime unmanned systems, command and control, and training.
- The aim is to drive down costs through economies of scale while improving operational values through increased commonality of equipment, training, doctrine and procedures.
- NATO Allies and partner nations have initiated several High Visibility Projects (HVPs), which are being developed.
- NATO works with the European Union to avoid duplication and ensure complementarity of efforts.
More background information
There are currently 10 projects underway that will deliver improved operational effectiveness, economies of scale, and connectivity among NATO Allies and partners. These projects address key capability areas: command and control, training structures, ammunitions and high-end acquisition.
In addition, nations continue to discuss promising areas for multinational cooperation in order to provide cost-effective security.
Command and control
Command and control (C2) consists of the leadership and direction given to a military organisation in the accomplishment of its mission. C2 is key in carrying out any NATO operation successfully and makes the operation work smoothly and efficiently. The projects below present examples of how C2 can be handled at multinational level.
Composite Special Operations Component Command (C-SOCC)
Special Operations Forces today increasingly operate in a multinational context. This is why having a multinational headquarters for their management is key. NATO Allies Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands agreed to create a tri-national command – C-SOCC – which, once fully operational, will participate in the NATO Response Force and could also be responsible for supporting multinational missions as well as NATO operations.
Regional Special Operations Component Command (R-SOCC)
Four Allies – Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia – and partner country Austria have agreed to put together, under Hungarian leadership, a regional deployable headquarters to manage Special Operations. Regional NATO Special Operations Forces across the Alliance could provide clear benefits in terms of speed and resilience to respond to arising crises.
All Allied forces – whether on land, in the air or at sea – need good training to confront a variety of security challenges and to perform their duties. Multinational training enables forces of different Allies to train together, improve coordination and cooperation and increase their readiness.
Special Operations Forces Aviation
Special Operations Forces are a highly valuable and versatile tool for effectively responding to evolving security threats. In order to further strengthen NATO in this domain, four Allies – Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia – have decided to create a multinational Special Aviation Programme (MSAP) dedicated exclusively to training air crews who will conduct the insertion and extraction of Special Operations Forces.
This training facility stationed in Zadar, Croatia will be established in a gradual manner, expanding the training opportunities offered over time. The new aviation training centre is officially opened its doors on 11 December 2019, contributing to NATO's adaptability and readiness.
NATO Flight Training Europe (NFTE)
Delivering state-of-the-art pilot training is an increasingly costly and challenging endeavour. For many European Allies, the national pilot requirements needed each year are too small to justify the establishment or maintenance of national flight centres. To overcome this challenge, the NFTE initiative aims to create a network of multinational training facilities for fighter jet, helicopter, fixed-wing and drone pilots across Europe, leveraging existing structures to the greatest extent possible.
The establishment of the NFTE will significantly decrease the current reliance on US training facilities by making European Allies capable of training their own flight crews in a multinational context. As such, the NFTE serves as an excellent example of transatlantic burden-sharing.
The NFTE was launched by 11 Allies – Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Turkey – in the margins of the June 2020 Defence Ministerial meeting.
Equipment used in NATO operations and missions differs in size and cost. While some is small and affordable, there are capabilities that are too big or too expensive for one country to take on. Nations are cooperating on several high-end projects they could not afford individually.
Multi Role Tanker Transport Capability (MRTT-C)
The MRTT is a multi-function aircraft that can serve to transport cargo, troops and as an aerial refuel tanker. Air-to-air refuelling tankers are especially critical for the projection of air power. As they are a pooled asset, interoperability is essential. The MRTT-C project enables the six participating Allies – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway – to collectively acquire Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft and establish a multinationally owned and operated fleet of MRTTs. For this initiative, NATO and the European Union (EU) joined forces, as both organisations identified shortfalls in air-to-air refuelling and the participating Allies, with the exception of Norway, are also members of the EU. As such, it is an example of the close cooperation between NATO and the EU.
Maritime Multi Mission Aircraft (M3A)
When it comes to maritime defence and security, it is vital for NATO to provide continuous situational awareness and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. To replace their aging Maritime Patrol Aircraft fleets, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain and Turkey have joined a multinational effort for developing replacement solutions. This project guarantees cutting-edge technology for NATO Allies beyond the end of the operational life of the current fleets in 2035. France and Germany took a first step forward by starting to develop a Maritime Airborne Warfare System (MAWS), which will serve as a maritime situational awareness tool.
Maritime Unmanned Systems (MUS)
An increasingly important capability to secure NATO's ability to actively respond to threats in the maritime area is unmanned systems. To facilitate multinational cooperation in this area, 14 NATO Allies – Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States – have joined forces via the MUS initiative to develop tailor-made solutions including, but not limited to, systems for detecting and clearing mines, and tracking submarines.
Ammunition is an essential part of every military operation. In order to ensure NATO Allies and partner countries are well equipped, three projects – each addressing a different domain – have been worked on at multinational level.
Air-to-Ground Precision Guided Munitions (A2G-PGM)
The supply of sufficient inventories of air precision munitions is necessary for enabling NATO operations. This project is a multinational framework for acquiring air-to-ground munitions and aims to increase the flexibility in stockpile management by reducing legal and technical obstacles for sharing and exchanging munitions among the participating Allies – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, the United Kingdom – and partner country Finland. This will enable the Alliance to bridge the interoperability gap in this area, which NATO first encountered during its operation in Libya, as well as support the European Allies in reducing dependence on the United States when it comes to air missions.
Land Battle Decisive Munitions (LBDM)
Modelled after its parent project above, the LBDM project creates a multinational framework for acquiring munitions for land domain. It currently gathers 20 Allies and three partner countries – Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom, Austria, Finland and Sweden - making it the largest of the High Visibility Projects. It will increase the Alliance's ability to share munitions and work more smoothly in the field. Over time, this initiative will help troops increase their interoperability and effectiveness, harmonise munitions inventories and enable participants to operate seamlessly and effectively together.
Maritime Battle Decisive Munitions (MBDM)
NATO Allies Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and partner country Finland agreed to combine munitions purchases in the maritime domain, including surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes and gun shells. The potential establishment of common warehousing solutions could lower costs even further. This effort presents an important first step towards creating European stockpiles of high-quality maritime munitions that meet the Alliance's evolving needs.
Allies are constantly exploring new multinational initiatives to develop the key capabilities the Alliance needs when facing today’s security challenges.
These political commitments take the form of agreements signed by defence ministers. An initial document, also called a Letter of Intent (LOI) – outlining the general cooperation idea – is signed by the defence ministers involved in the project. It is followed by the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a legally binding document specifying the details of cooperation. The MOUs provide the necessary legal framework for the execution of the implementation phase towards the delivery of the specific capability.
In the implementation phase of most projects, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) plays an important role of intermediary between the nations and industry. This can happen at different levels: NSPA can invite industry to present solutions for Allies and partners to acquire, be involved in the procurement process, or even negotiate on behalf of nations with industry.