Updated: 27-Nov-2006 NATO Speeches


22 Nov. 2006

Video interview

with Mr Jim Lovell, Director of Air Defence at NATO headquarters

INTERVIEWER: We're here today with Mr Jim Lovell, Director of Air Defence at NATO headquarters. Welcome Mr Lovell.

JIM LOVELL (Head of Air Defence Section - Air Defence and Airspace Management Directorate, Defence Investment Division): A pleasure to be here.

Q: My first question relates to strategic airlift. Can you explain to me what is strategic airlift and why the word strategic?

LOVELL: Sure. There is basically two categories of airlift. We talk about strategic and tactical. Tactical refers to an in-theatre kind of an airlift, which is mostly short distance. Strategic has been used, perhaps incorrectly, to talk about long distance, but it also talks about in a strategic context. But for our purposes we're talking about long distance movement of personnel and equipment.

Q: So how long exactly are we talking about? Can it go from continent to continent?

LOVELL: Oh absolutely. The distances are from whatever is necessary. We've used them from the U.S. for instance to Europe or within the European theatre we've used it to go to Africa, to Afghanistan, those kind of distances. There is no set distance per say.

Q: So what kind of things can this airlift carry?

LOVELL: It carries what any other aircraft does - cargo, personnel, military equipment. The initiative that we're talking about for here is designed mostly for military equipment, but it can be used for humanitarian supplies, as well as relief cargo.

Q: What are the differences between a strategic lift aircraft and "normal" aircraft?

LOVELL: In the context that we're talking about, the strategic aircraft we are looking to acquire are aircraft that have the capacity not only to fly long distances, but also to carry oversized and overweight equipment. You mentioned earlier about helicopters for instance. You cannot fit a helicopter in a tactical airlift aircraft or a normal aircraft. There are certain categories of aircraft which meet the needs for moving military equipment over great distances. The C-17 is one the... the most modern one available today. The A400M may be able to do that when it comes into production. The Antonov 124 aircraft is able to do that, however the Antonov 124 right now is out of production and it would cost a significant amount of money to start a production line up. So the decision was made that the C-17 aircraft was the appropriate to move oversized and overweight equipment these long distances.

Q: When you say oversized and overweight, how big are we talking? Can you move a tank in a strategic lift aircraft?

LOVELL: Yes you can move the M1 tank for instance, which is the largest tank in the U.S. inventory via a C-17 aircraft. It's a particularly productive way to move it because it's a very expensive way to move military equipment, but in an emergency it has the capacity to do that. It has the capacity to move what would be otherwise not fittable in normal civilian variety aircraft that is used for cargo and the transport of personnel.

Q: Can a helicopter be considered strategic airlift?

LOVELL: Well a helicopter is perfect candidate for use for strategic airlift. However mostly we're looking for things that are time sensitive. If you have to move something in a short amount of time because of an emergency situation, you'd want to use airlift versus sealift. Sealift would be more appropriate for large items, which are not time sensitive and yet you have time to react to. But in a crisis situation, helicopters fit on only certain categories of strategic lift aircraft.

Q: Why does NATO specifically need strategic planes to airlift?

LOVELL: Well NATO has needs for the NATO Response Force, as well as we've used them in support of humanitarian relief operations. In this particular instance the C-17 initiative that NATO has begun work on - and it's not really NATO so much as a consortium of willing nations to do this - have banded together to acquire aircraft to meet national needs which could also be made available to NATO if deemed necessary.

Q: So what are the stopgap measures that NATO is using to meet the strategic airlift requirements?

LOVELL: Well there are several initiatives ongoing. First of all some nations do in fact have the capacity to lift strategically equipment for NATO and for national needs. But strategic aircraft are by their very nature expensive items to maintain and most nations do not have either the requirement to buy a single aircraft or the resources to buy single aircraft or a small fleet of aircraft. Therefore these nations have gotten together and work much like a timeshare. We buy the aircraft, nations participate on a percentage basis; they provide a percentage of the costs, a percentage of the personnel and we share the use of the aircraft over a period of... the time that has been financed.

Q: And what kind of requirements has NATO seen in the past with regards to strategic airlift?

LOVELL: Well as strategic airlift has become more apparent lately with the idea of expeditionary operations, the operations that are ongoing in Afghanistan, our support when the tsunami occurred, when the earthquake occurred in Pakistan, forces in Africa to move humanitarian assistance there, the NATO Response Force has oversized equipment which needs to be moved by special aircraft and that's where some of the C-17 type aircraft have been received. There are other initiatives ongoing. There is a Strategic Airlift Interim Solution where NATO nations, plus a few EU nations, have gotten together to charter for assured access Antonov 124 aircraft from a civilian company to meet these needs for strategic lift. The U.K. has an initiative to at least obtain a database of national and other capabilities to move both tactically and strategically so we can rationalize the use of the aircraft.

Go to Homepage Go to Index Back to NATO Homepage