USAFE-AFAFRICA commander discusses Integrated Air, Missile Defense during Munich Security Conference

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  • By Capt. Michael Hardy
  • United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and NATO Allied Air Command, discussed one of his focus areas, Integrated Air and Missile Defense, during a panel at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 17. 

Held annually, the conference is one of the largest security conferences in the world with international leaders, senior military officials and industry representatives discussing international security policy and providing a venue to address pressing security concerns around the globe.   

Hecker participated in a panel on Future Missile Defense with NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, German Air Force Gen. Christian Nikolaus Badia, and Parliamentary State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany, the honorable Thomas Hitschler.   

Integrated Air and Missile Defense stands as one of Hecker’s top priorities, aiming to enhance U.S. and NATO capabilities for providing a comprehensive 360-degree protection of assets and locations to secure air superiority.  

“If you look back over the last 30 years, we’re used to having air superiority,” Hecker said during his opening remarks. “We could fly wherever we wanted to fly and drop our bombs where we wanted and not have the fear of being shot down by an air and missile defense system on the ground.”  

Hecker explained maintaining air superiority through integrated air and missile defense is vital today, but that our edge is not a guarantee.   

“We can’t do it the way we done it in the past,” he said.    

Hecker highlighted challenges U.S. and NATO allies face today with the proliferation of technology such as one-way unmanned aerial aircraft systems, which typically fly too low for ground-based radars to detect, and the cost of using current IAMD systems. He added that the keys to future success include strong relationships and interoperability across the NATO alliance.   

Hecker praised NATO allies for their work in areas such as starting the European Sky Shield initiative and developing innovative, low-cost acoustic detection systems that the Ukrainian military has employed to detect and intercept low flying threats.  

In his panel comments, Hecker also stressed the importance of developing a mixture of high-cost capabilities and low-cost capabilities as NATO looks to upgrade IAMD systems throughout the alliance.   

“Some countries can help with the expensive stuff and some help with the low-cost stuff, then all of us can come together and have a layered defense,” Hecker said.