USAFE, allied air commander talks NATO interoperability

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  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Air Force Public Affairs Agency, Operation Location-P
The commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Allied Air Command presented the alliance’s view on air power and interoperability in remarks at the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2014 here.

Gen. Frank Gorenc and air chiefs from Spain, Norway and Estonia described how speed, reach and precision have provided NATO critical responsiveness and flexibility.

“The Alliance is looking in all directions … while addressing the fact that the combat mission in Afghanistan is transitioning from a combat operations posture into a train, advise and assist-posture,” Gorenc said.

The general noted that NATO adeptly promotes and secures enough interoperability to use multi-sized, disparate equipment in a synergistic and effective way.

“The interoperability that we gain, either via technology or tactics, techniques and procedures is essential to the ability to form, organize, move or fight as quickly as possible,” he said.

But the task, he said, remains to maintain an exercise and training program that delivers the skills the alliance needs.

Gorenc also described a “massive organizational change” in the command structure, to include Joint Force Command Naples, Italy, and Joint Force Command Brunssum and three autonomous single service commands: NATO Air Command at Ramstein, Allied Maritime Command at Northwood Headquarters in London, and LANCOM in Ismir Air Base, Turkey.

The general explained that NATO has also pared down combined air operations centers to two: Torrajon Air Force Base, Spain, and Uedem, Germany, in addition to a deployable CAOC in Poggio Renatico, Italy.

“We’re still trying to realize the full effect of the command structure organization,” Gorenc said, adding, “We’re working to final operational capability in the near future.”

Gorenc also outlined numerous standing missions to include NATO air policing, which he said differs from air defense in that it is the peacetime maintenance NATO air space integrity.

The general noted many variations of the air policing such as periodic, traditional and third-party, since some NATO partners lack the aircraft to do their own policing.

Of ballistic missile defense, Gorenc reported that the alliance is in the early stages of a European-phased, adaptive approach.

“We’re working hard to incorporate and begin the process of creating a defense design that will provide for a comprehensive ballistic missile defense capability,” he said. “As the threat grows stronger, we’re going to have to become much more adept, both in command and control and capability to handle that threat.”

Partners such as Spain have demonstrated the need for and success of interoperability.

“When you design your force you have to balance well your national responsibilities but at the same time … be able put your capabilities into the alliance,” said Gen. F. Javier Garcia Arnaiz Spanish Air Force chief of staff.

Capabilities, he said, could include support to ground forces, air special operations or search and rescue.

But in the high north, Maj. Gen. Per-Egil Rygg, Norwegian Air Force chief of staff, related that any security assessment must also take geography, distance and resources into account.

“Norway’s extensive coastline facing the North Atlantic, the Bering Sea, and the Arctic Ocean creates an enormous expanse of territorial waters and a vast economic zone, especially large in comparison to our population of 5 million,” he said.

And bearing Europe’s largest coastline, Norway’s jurisdiction at sea is seven times larger than its mainland territory, Rygg said.

Col. Jaak Tarien, Estonian Air Force commander, said his nation supports the application of allied air power in the region to make it as efficient as possible.

The colonel noted Estonia’s run of five radar stations connected to the NATO integrated air defense system and the air base, which is the alliance’s fighting platform.

To provide such a platform in Estonia, Tarien said allied officials there transformed an old Soviet infrastructure into a modern air base.

“It was the largest defense infrastructure project in Estonia, showing clearly the commitment of Estonia government to the connection with allied air power.”