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US, French, British generals outline trilateral strategic initiative evolution

Maj. Gen. John Newell, director of strategy, concepts and assessments, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, speaks on a panel during the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2015. The trilateral strategic initiative panel discussed each of the countries (U.S., France and the U.K.) consolidated goals on building confidence within each other's capabilities by training together twice a year to meet their objectives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

Maj. Gen. John Newell, director of strategy, concepts and assessments, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, speaks on a panel during the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2015. The trilateral strategic initiative panel discussed each of the countries (U.S., France and the U.K.) consolidated goals on building confidence within each other's capabilities by training together twice a year to meet their objectives. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Whitney Stanfield)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- In a panel discussion at the 2015 Air Force Association Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington D.C., Sept. 15, U.S. Air Force, French air force and Royal Air Force generals discussed ongoing progress of the trilateral strategic initiative as coalition operations become more commonplace.

TSI encompasses the three nations’ undertakings to build trust, interoperability and advocacy for the preparation and execution of future combined air operations, said Maj. Gen. John Newell III, the director of Strategy, Concepts, and Assessments, deputy chief of staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements.

In October 2010, U.S., French and British chiefs of staff, then Gens. Norton Schwartz and Jean-Paul Paloméros, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, developed the collaborative agreement as an outgrowth of their personal relationships and as countries with long-standing partnerships and shared history.

“Since the French took to the sky in a hot air balloon in Paris in 1783, the year of our independence from Britain, these three nations have played a central role in developing and employing airpower in our Defense Department,” Newell said.

Still, Newell described 2010 as a “tumultuous time,” in which coalition forces faced questions and challenges.

French, U.S. and U.K. air forces, he said, grappled with how to reset after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and with how to attain peace and stability in Central Asia.

“Amid this uncertainty, we were now beginning to realize we were facing the rise of … competitors that we hadn’t thought about for 20 years,” Newell said. “We all felt this tug -- how to continue to contribute to support the ground fight and a low-end fight, but also be ready to fight against a modern peer adversary.”

These hurdles occurred at the onset of a budget down cycle and as such, Schwartz entertained the idea of divesting in certain capabilities and innovations that allies could possibly pick up.

Newell said witnessing the evolution of TSI has enabled him to learn about what combatant commands do well and what could be improved. “They’re very creative and they do innovation, but it’s typically on a specific problem set and it’s primarily about how to use today’s forces to win a fight.”

Innovation, Newell asserted, is TSI’s “bread and butter,” and all members on the service staff should consider it as first priority mission.

The U.S. Air Force Strategic Studies Group chief hosts discussions with nine French and British exchange officers in London and Paris, Newell explained. The officers, he added, advocate for the trilateral spirit of commitment, define common interests and advise chiefs on trilateral issues.

But force innovation outside of the organization, Newell acknowledged, remains somewhat elusive. The air-sea battle, for example, began five years ago as a broad concept that challenged the Navy and the Air Force to think about how it might solve operational challenges together, he said.

“Until we established an air-sea battle office, an incubator for that kind of innovation and collaboration, it really didn’t happen beyond the conceptual level,” Newell said.

Of turning concepts into reality, French Gen. Pascal Delerce, the Air Defense and Air Operations Command deputy chief of staff of operation, said the TSI has effectively used workshops since 2011 to develop coalition efforts at the organizational and strategic levels.

The planning, he added, is a constant task that requires permanence and determination.

“The Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and French air force will likely operate together in the future,” Delerce said. This initiative is paving the way to ensure we are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to crises.”

And while the three nations’ bond and military cooperation continues to strengthen within and beyond NATO, there’s always an ongoing need to build confidence and trust among all allies, said Royal Air Force Air Vice Marshal Gavin Parker, the Group No. 2 commander.

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