NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence
NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence (NATO IAMD) is an essential and continuous mission in peacetime, crisis and conflict, safeguarding and protecting Alliance territory, populations and forces against any air or missile threat or attack. It is a vital element of NATO’s deterrence and defence, which contributes to the Alliance’s indivisible security and freedom of action, including NATO’s ability to reinforce its deployments and to provide a strategic response.
Patriot air and missile defence system on display at Allied Air Command (© NATO AIRCOM)
- NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence provides a highly responsive, robust, time-critical and persistent capability in order to achieve a desired level of control of the air, wherein the Alliance is able to conduct the full range of its missions in peacetime, crisis and conflict.
- NATO IAMD is particularly crucial in the current strategic environment, which is characterised by a significant proliferation of various types of air and missile capabilities and their aggressive use by potential adversaries.
- NATO IAMD incorporates all necessary measures to deter any air and missile threat, or to nullify or reduce their effectiveness. It is conducted using a 360-degree approach, tailored to address threats emanating from all strategic directions.
- Over the past years, NATO has significantly enhanced the readiness and responsiveness of its IAMD forces, ensuring that the right capabilities are in the right place at the right time. The adaptation of NATO IAMD is conducted in line with the overall adaptation of the Alliance’s deterrence and defence posture, which remains defensive and proportional.
- NATO IAMD adaptation takes into account all air and missile threats, including those posed by Russia’s growing and evolving array of capabilities, as well as the increasingly diverse and challenging air and missile threats from other state and non-state actors, ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to sophisticated missile capabilities, like hypersonic missiles.
- Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Allies have taken further steps to strengthen NATO IAMD. These measures are a strong demonstration of Allied solidarity and resolve.
- NATO IAMD is implemented through the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS), a network of interconnected national and NATO systems comprised of sensors, command and control assets, and weapons systems
- NATINAMDS comes under the authority of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
NATO IAMD activities vary depending on the specific circumstances of any concrete situation and can include air policing; air defence; ballistic missile defence; cruise missile defence; counter rockets, mortar and artillery; or counter unmanned aircraft systems.
The NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) – a network of interconnected national and NATO systems comprised of sensors, command and control assets, and weapons systems – is designed to defend NATO forces, populations and territory from threats emanating from all strategic directions. It is a highly responsive system, which is prepared to employ all necessary measures to deter any air and missile threat, or to nullify or reduce their effectiveness, in times of crisis or conflict.
In peacetime, there are two major ongoing activities within the framework of NATO IAMD: NATO Air Policing and NATO Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
NATO Air Policing is one of the permanent peacetime missions conducted within the framework of NATO IAMD. NATO Air Policing is a strong demonstration of solidarity among Allies, as countries with fighter aircraft capabilities help to ensure the integrity of the airspace of those countries that do not possess them. The enhancement of NATO Air Policing along NATO’s eastern flank in response to the war in Ukraine continues to demonstrate Allied solidarity, as well as the importance of this mission for deterrence and reassurance of NATO Allies.
The NATO Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) mission is to defend populations, territory and forces in NATO Europe against the increasing threat posed by the proliferation of ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area, particularly to the southeast of the Alliance’s borders.
In times of crisis, NATO IAMD contributes to NATO’s deterrence and defence by demonstrating the Alliance’s ability, resolve and readiness to counter hostile activities, thereby maintaining NATO’s freedom of action at all times. NATO IAMD is an integral part of NATO’s crisis response system. Measures taken by the Allies to enhance NATO IAMD in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine are strong demonstrations of Allied solidarity and resolve.
Integration is an essential requirement for NATO IAMD, as it provides coordination and synchronisation of all available air and missile defence capabilities. A key prerequisite for integration is interoperability (procedural, technical and human). Training and exercises play a significant role in this regard. They also demonstrate Allied resolve and can have a deterrent effect.
A key example of integration is the NATO Air Command and Control (Air C2) systems, which provide the Alliance with a capability to manage NATO air operations (including air policing) in and out of the Euro-Atlantic area. The systems cover a theatre of operations of 81 million square kilometres (not including deployable capability) from the northernmost point of Norway to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the easternmost point of Türkiye to the North Atlantic. NATO Air C2 systems – including the NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS) programme, which was established in 1999 to provide the Alliance with a single, integrated Air C2 system – are continuously evolving to ensure that the Alliance is able to meet any challenge or threat.
Relevant NATO committees
The Integrated Air and Missile Defence Policy Committee (IAMD PC) is the senior committee responsible for all policy and political-military aspects of NATO IAMD, including the air policing and BMD missions, as well as relevant Joint Air Power elements. It reports to the North Atlantic Council, the Alliance’s principal political decision-making body.
The Military Committee Working Group for Air and Missile Defence is responsible for reviewing, advising and making recommendations on military aspects of air and missile defence issues to NATO’s Military Committee, the senior military authority in NATO.
Another committee that reports to the NAC, engaged in the IAMD domain, is the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD), which promotes cooperation between countries in the armaments field and oversees implementation of NATO’s BMD Programme.
Historically, NATO IAMD is an evolution of the concept of NATO Integrated Air Defence. The original concept was implemented in 1961 through the use of the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS) under the command and control of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
During the Cold War, NATINADS was a largely static system arrayed in belts against a uni-directional and well-defined threat of manned aircraft. Since then, NATINADS has evolved into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS), which meets the challenges of today's less predictable environment and which can deploy and address the full range of air and missile threats.
The NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS) programme was formally established in November 1999 to provide the Alliance with a single, integrated air command and control system to manage NATO air operations in and out of the Euro-Atlantic area. Since then, NATO Air C2 systems have continued to evolve, ensuring that the Alliance is able to meet any challenge or threat.
The unprecedented scale of Russia’s missile attacks during its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine demonstrates the importance of credible and robust IAMD. At the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Allies confirmed that they will continue to strengthen NATO IAMD to ensure that it remains flexible and adaptive, as well as coherent with other deterrence and defence measures.
Allies remain committed to the further strengthening of NATO IAMD capabilities, including by providing the necessary sensors, interceptors, and command and control, in particular through the NATO Defence Planning Process (NDPP). As a result, a number of Allies are acquiring new air and missile defence systems, including land- and maritime-based systems. These new assets will further enhance NATO IAMD. Allies will also continue to train and exercise IAMD forces by including more IAMD aspects in Alliance exercises and training.