NATO strengthens joint air power cooperation

  • 12 Oct. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 16 Oct. 2023 16:09

Two initiatives were signed in the margins of the NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting this week (11-12 October 2023), demonstrating Allies’ commitment to work together to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defence in the air domain.

Left to right: NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană with Ludivine Dedonder (Minister of Defence, Belgium), Boris Pistorius (Minister of Defence, Germany) and Grant Shapps (UK Secretary of State for Defence)

On Wednesday (11 October 2023), Germany and the United Kingdom joined the NATO Flight Training Europe (NFTE) High Visibility Project, bringing the total number of participants to 12 (Belgium, Czechia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Spain, Türkiye, United Kingdom).

NFTE is one of the Alliance’s multinational High Visibility Projects (HVPs), which is being executed through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) Support Partnership (SP). An NSPA Support Partnership (SP) is a multinational cooperation mechanism established by two or more NATO Allies wishing to organise common support and services activities. The aim of the NFTE SP is to fundamentally reshape the aircrew training landscape in Europe towards less fragmentation, lower training costs and increased interoperability.

NFTE aims to ensure that sufficient state-of-the-art pilot training is available around Europe in a cost-efficient and interoperable manner. NFTE will leverage existing national and multinational facilities in Europe and, where necessary, expand or create new training capacity to address training requirements for different types of pilots. These can include basic, intermediate, and advanced categories of training for fighter jet, helicopter, and transport pilots, as well as personnel who remotely pilot unmanned aircraft. This is a high priority, especially for many smaller European NATO Allies whose training requirements do not justify the creation of national training centres. 

NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană said: “NATO’s strength comes from our unity, our posture, the related forces and capabilities, and from systematically training together and forging trusting relationships in the process. This carries particular importance at a time when we need to ensure the executability of our defence plans. NATO Flight Training Europe is an excellent example of this. This important multinational effort will help us develop a shared approach to training the next generations of aircrews.”

On Thursday (12 October 2023), 13 Allies (Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Türkiye) and invitee Sweden signed an agreement to cooperate on cross-border airspace. This reflects the participating nations’ commitment to ensure that Allied civil and military authorities can collaborate on the use of air space for NATO training and exercises, and other air activities in several regions of Europe.

The use of larger volumes of national airspace by NATO requires close coordination between civil and military authorities to deliver airspace solutions in a safe and flexible manner. As the recent Air Defender 23 exercise showed, NATO’s ability to train at scale in the air domain is a critical element of the Alliance’s overall deterrence and defence. 

Mr Geoană said: “The solutions will be considered across several European regions and will deliver a flexible approach to airspace management. They will help the Alliance to strengthen NATO's air and missile defense capabilities. Close collaboration will be required between civil and military users of our airspace […] This has also set an excellent example of close collaboration between our military forces and our civilian aviation colleagues.”