Aviation in NATO’s Expeditionary Operation in the Context of Alliance’s Strategic Concept


The Alliance’s Strategic Concept as a formal document is a statement in which NATO points out political and military resources and the means of gaining assumed goals. It re-defines basic tasks and rules, determines main features of the new security environment, displays full-scale approach to the collective security and constitutes the background for future reforms and transformations of its member’s armed forces. In the new Alliance’s Strategic Concept the need of engaging NATO out of its border lines, in order to prevent particular threats, is clearly outlined. It forces the expeditionary feature on the Alliance and therefore the respective abilities are required. Those abilities focus on carrying out expeditionary operations; hence one of the leading aspects will be the use of aviation. The paper consists of two principal parts. The first part focuses on the analysis of current NATO’s Strategic Concept in a context of leading its expeditionary operations beyond the area of its responsibility. Attention was drawn upon the essential problems with implementation of expeditionary operations in the future. The second part gives us characteristics of the aviation as one of the key tools in Alliance’s expeditionary operations. The key requirements which the aforementioned forces need to fulfil were presented, as well as the estimated scope of the use of aviation in typical expeditionary operations.

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Strategická koncepce Aliance jako formální dokument je prohlášení, ve kterém NATO zmiňuje politické a vojenské zdroje a prostředky k dosažení předpokládaných cílů. Nově definuje základní úkoly a pravidla, určuje hlavní rysy nového bezpečnostního prostředí, představuje celé pojetí kolektivní bezpečnosti a vytváří základ pro budoucí reformy a transformace ozbrojených sil členských zemí. Ve strategické koncepci Aliance je jasně uvedena potřeba zapojení NATO mimo své hranice s cílem zabránit konkrétním hrozbám. Ustanovuje pro Alianci expediční funkci, která vyžaduje příslušné schopnosti. Tyto schopnosti se soustředí na provádění expedičních operací, kde jedním z hlavních aspektů bude využití letectva.

Příspěvek se skládá ze dvou hlavních částí. První část je zaměřena na analýzu stávající strategické koncepce NATO v souvislosti s vedením expedičních operací mimo svoji oblast odpovědnosti. Soustředí se zejména na základní problémy při provádění expedičních operací v budoucnosti. Druhá část charakterizuje letectvo jako jeden z klíčových nástrojů expedičních operací Aliance. Předkládá klíčové požadavky, které uvedené síly musí splňovat, a také odhadovaný rozsah využití letectva v obvyklých expedičních operacích.

Klíčová slova

Expediční operace NATO; strategická koncepce Aliance; schopnosti letectva.


NATO’s expeditionary operations; Alliance’s Strategic Concept; aviation capabilities.


The current Alliance’s Strategic Concept displays the vision of how the Alliance will be operating during the next decade in order to prevent particular threats. It presents fundamental goals and tasks for NATO, to be achieved in the next ten-year time, with the focus on leading expeditionary operations beyond its area of responsibility. Moreover, it considers co-operation with the member countries and other international organizations, and more effective use of its own resources. Thereby the Concept as a document is the strategy which defines resources ensuring collective defence and security of NATO members in a dynamically changing environment of international security. According to the new NATO’s Strategic Concept all members of the Alliance have the right to protection of freedom and security, by use of political and military means; it is considered something fundamental and tenacious. The Strategic Concept also extensively describes military reforms oriented on the expeditionary operations capability during the economic crisis. Undoubtedly, the experiences acquired in Libya and Afghanistan allow to formulate the thesis that aviation is one of the main tools that comes under the idea of Alliance’s expeditionary capability; that is the reason one ought to expect the advancement and development of expeditionary capabilities in this area in the next decade. It is indicated by the NATO’s Strategic Concept records and resolutions made during last Chicago summit. Therefore an attempt to answer the following questions seems to be legitimate: in what ways does the Strategic Concept refer to expeditionary operations? What should be the requirements of the aviation supporting expeditionary operations? What is the hypothetic scale of using aviation in expeditionary operations?


Similarly to previous strategic conceptions, the new one from 2010 determines three principal tasks which are supposed to strengthen security of Alliance’s members. Those tasks are as follows: collective defence (defence and deterrence), crisis management (security through the crisis management) and cooperative security (adhering to international security through the cooperation). In order to implement the aforementioned tasks, the new NATO strategy binds its armed forces to the efficient implementation of full spectrum military operations, as well as involves constant process of reforms, modernization and transformation. The permanence of the Alliance will be invariably decided by Article V of 1949 Washington Treaty, which refers to the solidarity of NATO members. Hence the essential Alliance’s competence is the protection and defence of its territory and its people against the threat. The assertion of Alliance’s borders inviolability and integrity necessitates capabilities which are indispensable to defend itself against any threat. In the new Strategic Concept, new areas of improving key defensive capabilities are clearly outlined. It is the development and maintenance of conventional forces - strong, mobile and such that can be swiftly emplaced for the sake of operation subjected to Article V. It also applies to expeditionary operations (including NATO’s Response Force) providing security to the Alliance through the disposal of threats beyond the area of its responsibility. Moreover, NATO’s leaders lay under obligation of maintaining required level of defence spending to ensure proper defence resources. [1]

Another Alliance’s authority specified in the Strategic Concept is the reassurance of collective security due to the crisis management. Crisis and conflicts going on outside of NATO borders can be a direct threat to its security. This is the reason why NATO will be involved in every anti-crisis action, crisis management, peacekeeping mission and reconstruction of the country in which the conflict took place. On the other hand, if diplomacy proves to be ineffectual, the Alliance would be prepared to initiate a military action. It needs to be mentioned that the experience gained by NATO during peace support operation at Balkans, military operations held against pirates in the Gulf of Aden, fighting off the terrorism in the Mediterranean Sea, trainings in Iraq or the operation in Afghanistan and Libya - all of the above points out the Alliance’s input into an international conflict management. The conflict management in NATO will be also effectively evolved by the development of doctrine and operational capabilities from the field of expeditionary operation - including anti-guerrilla warfare, peace enforcement and reconstruction activities. [2]

Equally important Alliance’s competence, which was outlined in the 2010 Strategic Concept, is upholding the international security through cooperation and partnership in pursuit of common interests in security of individual nations and organizations, e.g. United Nations and European Union. Though all the efforts aimed at enhancing Euro Atlantic security are important, the most important seems to be the discussion over the NATO-EU military relationship, which ought to have the key role in adhering to peace and international security. The new NATO’s strategy emphasizes the necessity of enlarging the scope of cooperation between member nations in the area of developing Alliance’s defensive abilities. Consequently one should aspire for increasing cost-effectiveness of projects, increasing Alliance’s operational capabilities and avoidance of duplicating same projects by particular nations, especially during the economic crisis and military spending cuts. The Smart Defence initiative meets both of the aforementioned assumptions.

Provisions of the Strategic Concept oblige the member nations to internal reform and transformation of the Alliance towards administering resources that are more effective, productive and flexible. It was outlined in the paper, that NATO must administer adequate financial, military and human resources, in case of need of implementation of the missions which are essential for the Alliance’s security. In 2010 - 2020 NATO will develop its abilities for deployment of military forces and formation of skills adequate for threats recognition.

Conclusions from the 2010 Alliance’s Strategic Concept of NATO clearly indicate the increased involvement of NATO in solving crisis beyond the area of its responsibility. Therefore, the expeditionary character of its actions in the next decade is visible. In fact, the paper definitely outlines ambitions of NATO in the area of solving conflicts and crisis management outside of its territorial borders as far as possible and if there is a need. Its actions will be aimed at eliminating any threats to the Alliance through the maintenance of the full spectrum of capabilities, including: preventing conflicts, crisis management, peace enforcement and the reconstruction operations. [3]

Provisions contained in the Strategic Concept allow to articulate general capabilities of the Alliance in the context of prevailing threats identified in the paper. That includes [4]:

  • Capability to deploy and sustain the forces in the region of an emergency;
  • Full-scale civilian, political and military approach to resolve the crisis, including cooperation with other players being in the area of operation (nongovernmental organizations, civilian experts, etc.);
  • Capabilities to accomplish tasks of peace enforcement and reconstruction;
  • Capabilities to train local forces (both civilian and military);
  • Enhanced capabilities to conduct political consultations with potential partners;
  • Capabilities to prevent conflicts, including enlarging implementation of Alliance’s situation awareness.

The necessity of enhancing expeditionary capabilities, resulting from the Alliance’s Strategic Concept, may face quite a few inconveniences connected with their implementation. Political tensions between member nations, discrepancy between their views on the role of NATO and its mission in the world, and the costs versus benefits in the context of making modern NATO 2020 forces - these are just a few of the problems to be resolved in the future.

There are even extreme opinions that the “different perception of risk, together with the lack of political will for building military capabilities that are adequate to the threats and lack of investment in the development of expeditionary capabilities are clear symptoms of the crisis in NATO.“ [5] Others, including former U.S. Secretary of Defence, indicate the risk of the Alliance’s functioning in a two-level system, in which some members will focus on territorial defence, and the others on collective security through the implementation of expeditionary operations outside the NATO’s area of responsibility. [6]

Since 1999 NATO’s members from Central and Eastern Europe have expressed concern about devaluation of the meaning of Article 5. According to them there has been a re-evaluation of risk perception, and too great consideration for threats taking place outside the NATO treaty area of responsibility. Therefore, the development of the Alliance’s defence capabilities has been focused on the construction of expeditionary capabilities, while some countries do not go hand in hand with the provision of the ability to defend NATO territories. However, in the opinion of many experts there are no significant differences in developing expeditionary operations capability and those aimed at territorial defence resulting from NATO’s Article 5. Hence, the dichotomy between defence capabilities for expeditionary operations and territorial defence seems to be artificial, and the further development of NATO’s expeditionary capabilities is a priority for both the defence and collective action for the elimination of crises outside the Alliance. The new NATO Strategic Concept clearly eliminates these discrepancies and ensures that the expeditionary operations are one of the main tools to ensure NATO’s collective defence as well as prevent crisis in geographically remote regions. Moreover, all NATO members agreed to strengthen (maintain or enhance) the national expeditionary capabilities, because the military operations beyond the Euro-Atlantic region are more likely than missions in the territory of the member states.

Development of expeditionary capabilities is also endangered by on-going crisis that affects defensive budgets of Alliance members. Defence spending of 2% of GDP on defence, which was agreed upon by all NATO members, is performed by only few of them. This will lead to stagnation in the development of the Alliance’s defence capabilities - for European NATO countries it will lead to deep demilitarization affecting the whole Alliance. Hence, the need to find new solutions to rectify the financial constraints while increasing cooperation between member countries in order to reduce costs. A good example of developing common capabilities, crucial for the Alliance’s defence, is the aforementioned Smart Defence initiative.

The Strategic Concept of NATO states that to carry out expeditionary operations effectively during the next decade, the effort must be undertaken by all member countries. Armed forces of member states must be restructured and become more mobile. Joint projects aimed at conducting expeditionary operations associated with Smart Defence Concept are one of the ways to achieve these goals. Provisions of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept emphasize the importance of cooperation through joint projects and avoiding duplication of military capabilities. It may be achievable through multinational and multilateral cooperation agreements. An example of such co-operation can be: the Franco-British agreement in the area of defence cooperation, agreement of the Nordic countries (NORDEFCO – Nordic Defence Cooperation), the Visegrad Group and the Weimar Triangle. An important aspect of creating NATO’s expeditionary capability, as indicated in the Strategic Concept, is doctrinal transformation consisting of organization of consolidated training and development of collective operational procedures to enhance the interoperability of NATO. This task applies to all domains in which the Alliance will carry out expeditionary activities on land, sea, air and cyberspace.


Aviation participating in expeditionary operations should be skilled in the following areas: maintaining high readiness, the ability of quick generation of formation, airlift assets over long distances, the ability to transit commanding elements, the ability to cooperate with the coalition forces or allies, minimum logistic support and a modular design adequate to the tasks in the area of expeditionary operations.

High aviation readiness activities designed for crisis response operations guarantees quick response to a crisis situation. In the given situation, quick response to the crisis or conflict can be a crucial factor for the success of the operation. Maintaining a high level of combat readiness in the context of air expeditionary assets will also be associated with the appropriate equipment and training system adequate to the tasks expected of expeditionary operations. However, the rapid construction of expeditionary aviation may encounter difficulties because of the various structures operating in the aviation forces and the problems related to unification of procedures, as well as hardware incompatibility. Building of an air expeditionary force requires that the member states have comparable hardware capabilities as well as legal and organizational framework. It is well known that this is not always possible. [7]

Ability to transit over long distances is another requirement of aviation participating in expeditionary operations. It is connected directly to the need for an access to strategic airlift resources, which will allow transfer of the necessary resources to the area of operation. The strategic air mobility also allows for the presence of force in the outlying areas, which is an important factor in deterrence operations. Access to strategic airlift resources seems to be a key factor in this area. It should be noticed that the resources are limited, and the individual member states do not possess enough of these resources. Equally important in the context of air mobility is an access to air-to-air refuelling. Aerial tankers can play one of the main roles during expeditionary operations. Air tankers might be used for: protecting military forces on the strategic distance, providing airlift assets to the area of expeditionary operation, securing the movement and action in the area of operation, aiding air forces, air-to-air refuelling in emergency situations and assisting search and rescue missions. [8] The possibility of air-to-air refuelling increases chances of air forces to perform tasks without the need for a fixed base, which allows for a rapid response in the event of an emergency. Air-to-air refuelling can also be helpful in airlifting provisions for humanitarian aid or surveillance and reconnaissance operations.

Conducting expeditionary operations in geographically distant areas requires the involvement of relevant elements of command and control, also in the context of aviation resources. The structure of the command elements of the system should be adapted to the type of the operation and depend on the size of the forces involved and the environment in which it is being carried out. In the case of coalition or alliance operations it is important to keep in mind the requirements of interoperability between the operation’s participants, also in the context of taking command in the organizational and technical aspects. The participants of the operation will be planning, organizing and carrying out tasks on the basis of mutual procedures (exclusive national caveats), hence the joint training, education and building common modular task structure is essential. Ability to work in multinational hubs should be considered as a priority during training and education. [9]

Equally important issue in the context of aviation participation in expeditionary operations is the ability to operate in the area of operations with the minimum requirements of the logistics aimed at ensuring the security of operations undertaken by aviation. However, they cannot affect the accomplishment of the tasks. It can be assumed that in the future aviation will employ new technologies to help reduce the need for relatively large security logistics.

Air expeditionary forces should also have the ability to perform a wide range of tasks, ranging from humanitarian operations to the typical kinetic effects. Hence, the construction of the expeditionary forces should be adequate to the modular nature of the type of operation as part of the expedition. [10]

Aviation activities in geographically distant regions in the context of expeditionary operations impose on it the requirement of modularity, resulting directly from the extended scope of its use, particularly in the context of an anti-crisis affair. The basic premise of the concept of modularity is the ability to create, depending on the purpose, scale and nature of the operations, dedicated air force groups adequate to the specific needs in peacetime by the member states. The size of the modules and their operational capabilities should be tailored to the specific expeditionary operation. It is necessary to allocate resources of command, securing the efficient utilisation of expeditionary groups. Analysis of the need for the use of the aviation expeditionary operations allows formulating specific requirements for modularity, which include:

  • The principle of the development of forces and means of modules based on established processes and standardized on the NATO scale operational capabilities, tactical and technical characteristics;
  • Flexibility and openness of the operational capacity of the individual modules, ensuring their ability to adapt quickly to the needs of the specific operation of the Alliance and tactical and operational development;
  • Uniformity of tactics and operational force procedures for the dedicated modules and interoperability of weapons systems, reconnaissance, communications, and automation of command;
  • The ability to interact and cooperate with partner countries’ air forces which are not members of NATO. [11]

Considering the issues related to the requirements for the aviation participating in the crisis response operations, the additional factors affecting their functioning in the area of operations should be taken into account. They define the aviation’s ability to operate in harsh weather conditions and terrain, and its ability to implement the mission of the location of poor (or complete lack thereof) logistics infrastructure, as well as without the possibility of host-nation support. Referring to the articulated conditions, it is obvious that the air expeditionary force should operate in all terrain, both natural as well as terrain that is being a product of human activity. The experience of the last conflicts in which aviation was involved (Balkans, Afghanistan) indicates that the most common environments in which it was used were deserts and mountains. It is expected that in the future the common environmental areas of actions will be urban areas (metropolitan areas), but others, such as jungles, cannot be excluded. An important element that affects the proper functioning in the given environment is the adequate training of the staff as well as equipage and armament suitable for this particular climate.


The essence of aviation activities involved in allied expeditionary task forces within the joint task forces will primarily be creating conditions to ensure long-term political solutions to crises that threaten peace. It must be assumed that the use of aviation will be subjected to the same political and legal restrictions as presently; tasks implementation method will be subordinated to the joint expeditionary task leading commander’s concept and specific NATO goals.

Hypothetical range of aviation use in expeditionary operations, primarily understood as a commitment to geographically distant regions may be varied - from the typical military operations (full spectrum) to independent humanitarian and evacuation operations, and the wide range of crisis reaction and peace enforcement operations.

Aviation expeditionary force will be participating in large scale military operations, for example, separation of sides of the conflict, or in extreme cases, the defence of the territorial integrity of a member state. This is a hypothetical assumption, but one that cannot be excluded. The main area of possible use of allied aviation in such operations should be considered acquiring and maintaining a desired degree of air control superiority, as a necessary requirement for the means of implementing all of the remaining tasks, including those carried out by inland units. The counter air operations will focus on overcoming the enemy’s systems of command, reconnaissance assets and destroying the ground fire centres of enemy’s air defence system, destroying airfields, including fighters, and aircraft in the air. One cannot exclude the necessity of fighting off the enemy’s ballistic missile systems in order to prevent it from implementing retaliatory missile strike (also with the use of WMD).

Analogously to the current doctrinal foundation, it must be assumed that in a typical armed conflict allied air force participating in expeditionary actions will act directly on the enemy’s centres of gravity, in order to deprive him of his ability or willingness to fight and carry out specific strategies. It should be emphasized that aviation activities should be targeted at minimizing the potential destructive effects on the environment and the civilian population. An equally important task carried out by aviation during the large scale conflict within the support of expeditionary task force will be retrieving its military personnel during operations - both counteracting and operations on own territory. In conclusion, the range of use of allied expeditionary aviation in the context of large scale conflict will be included in the areas of its doctrinal use of which the most important are:

  • Acquire and maintain air superiority;
  • Acquire and maintain information superiority;
  • Maintain the ability to perform the striking tasks in the scale of operating range;
  • Ability to maintain a wide range of precise striking distance;
  • Providing quick access to the resources of the air mobility;
  • Providing flexible and well adapted combat support.

One of the basic forms of the Alliance’s commitment to aviation in geographically remote regions will be humanitarian or evacuation operations after the occurrence of natural disasters and civil emergencies. In such operations, aviation may be the only way to achieve this type of tasks in the area affected by a humanitarian disaster. Aviation activities in this area should be correlated with the land peace enforcement military (if deployed), international organizations’ specialized agencies, government institutions and non-governmental organizations involved in humanitarian aid. The use of aviation in such operations is one of its main tasks, because it has major influence on the final result of the efforts of the international community to restore peace; its failure can lead to escalating humanitarian crises, possibly in the whole region.

One can assume the independent humanitarian operations as one of the possible scenarios for the use of aviation. The implementation of such tasks may be the result of a crisis caused by conflict or natural disasters, or disasters which are a consequence of human activity. Typically, the use of aviation will be preceded by the involvement of specialized humanitarian organizations. It cannot be excluded that aviation will be the sole way of helping where civilian organizations will not be able to carry out their tasks. Main tasks of aviation related to managing humanitarian action will include the distribution of supplies, providing particularly important materials to the area of humanitarian aid and evacuating people from the affected area. It should be noted that due to the simultaneous occurrence of emergency situations of a humanitarian nature and internal conflicts (ethnic, religious) or organized crime, it will be necessary to use aviation to carry out such tasks as protection of humanitarian convoys, warehouses, equipment and humanitarian workers. [12]

In many situations the use of air transport is associated with assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters or industrial accidents. With the ability of early undertaking the rescue actions by the military, which include aviation contingents built by each member state, the air transport can be effective to help, especially at the beginning of the rescuing operation. Analysis of experience with the use of aviation in case of emergencies caused by natural disasters or industrial accidents shows that the tasks most frequently performed by aviation would be saving lives, preventing the destruction of key infrastructure, building the rescue operations control and communication system, and organization of emergency medical care. Aviation will be able to airlift food and essential supplies to victims of natural disasters, as well as materials needed for the reconstruction of basic sanitation. The scale of natural disasters often prevents effective crisis management by individual states, so it must be assumed that the characteristic feature of aviation operations to help victims of natural disasters will be multi-nationality of the group.

Another possible mission carried out by the aviation as a part of expeditionary operations is conducting evacuation of own citizens from a foreign territory in case of adverse development, for example, due to internal situation, which is a direct threat to citizens’ health or life. Depending on the nature of the threat, aviation would secure the transport of evacuated citizens, organize the evacuation, and in extreme cases protect the evacuated and create safe environment for the withdrawal of evacuation forces. Hence, one cannot exclude using air force to secure airlift operations. The challenges associated with the use of airlift evacuation operations are most of all rapidity and low predictability of escalation of crisis situation forcing the evacuation, spatial momentum, temporal constraints of actions undertaken and the need to coordinate efforts on the national, bilateral and multilateral dimensions.

Another group of tasks performed by the aviation expeditionary operations will be related mainly to the implementation of the crisis response operations (both military and non-military). It is believed that the main task in this area will include: air surveillance and reconnaissance, acquiring and maintaining the superiority in the airspace, air transport and operation with the use of force. [13]

In case of a military crisis that may require actions taken by the international community or coalition, the use of aviation, for the tasks of surveillance and reconnaissance will be an essential tool for monitoring the emergency situation and preventing escalation of the crisis; timely delivery of helpful information to the intervention forces and sides of the conflict, which may enhance the mutual trust and may allow to solve the crisis by means of diplomatic negotiations. Effective air surveillance and reconnaissance will also allow assessment of risk, thus decreasing the risk of loss of life. It is worth noting that access to reliable information through the use of air reconnaissance in crisis response operations is a key element of discouraging the sides of the conflict from escalating operations by monitoring the situation and selective use of force to enforce de-escalation of the crisis.

Another of the tasks is related to the acquiring and maintaining dominance in the airspace, which can also be implemented during emergency response operations. Within this category, the use of aviation activities may include: securing forces and facilities of a coalition, both local and neutral, monitoring the status of the airspace in order to determine the nature of its use and, if necessary, taking steps to prevent its unauthorized use. It must also be assumed that the aviation will pursue enforcement of the total or partial ban on the use of airspace by all available means, including forcing any aircraft violating this rule to land, or shooting it down, as well as maintaining operational readiness to attack the air component which is violating existing peace agreements. [14]

Analysing the current experience from stabilization missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it should be noted that one of the key tasks for aviation will be airlift operations, which remain an essential part of emergency response operations. It seems that in addition to the classic features of airlifting troops to, and within, the area of operations, the aviation activities of air transport will serve also as a confidence-building measure. Its role in this area will focus on mobilizing key decision-makers, representatives of sides of the conflict, mediators, observers, and employees of government agencies, international and non- governmental organizations.

The scope of the allied air force tasks, which can be used in crisis response operations, also will not be different from those presented in the allied air doctrine. It seems that it will continue to strive for aviation use in such operations, with particular emphasis on tight integration between force operations with effectual information and diplomatic pressure. Based on the above assumption it can be stated that the tasks of force nature performed by the aviation expeditionary force would be a response to violations of arrangements by the sides involved in the conflict, or in the case of attack on their own ground forces. It should be emphasized that such a task will be severely limited by restrictions on the use of a number of legal and political oversights of the member states providing operations forces, usually being allied or coalition operation. It should also be noted that the participation of air forces in crisis response operations can focus on the following objectives:

  • Participation in the fight against terrorism;
  • Participation in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • Participation in enforcing the sanctions, imposing an embargo and / or control of shipping;
  • Exaction of exclusion zones;
  • Participation in ensuring freedom of navigation in international waters and over flight rights in international airspace;
  • Evacuation of persons without the status of a member of the armed forces, including the citizens of NATO countries, from the regions affected by crisis or disaster;
  • Supporting forces engaged in peacekeeping and peace enforcing operations;
  • Implementation of tasks within the protection of shipping;
  • Show of force operations;
  • Others. [15]

Aviation tasks carried out in stabilization operations will be focused primarily on ensuring the protection of the stabilization forces and the civilian population in the area of operations. It can be assumed that the primary task will be carried out by the aviation to provide continuous monitoring of key areas in the immediate area of operation and air reconnaissance in favour of ground forces and special forces engaged in action against an irregular opponent. In the context of experience with the use of aviation in the stabilization phase of Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom operations, it is believed that in the future, conduct of these activities in terms of stabilization operations will largely rely on unmanned aerial vehicles. Kinetic tasks are likely to be carried out by a relatively small air force assets of combat and patrol (CAP) and ground alerts. Due to the estimated nature of inland stabilization forces, one can assume that fighting off target strikes will occur within close proximity of forces supported by aviation and civilians. Hence, the basic form of the implementation of these tasks will require direct air support with the use of the precise means of destruction.

One can also anticipate that the main effort in stability operations involving military forces in the use of aviation will lie within the air transport. Air transport under the rotation of the UN stabilization force to maintain the continuity of their operations and air medical evacuation will be carried to and from the airports located in the area of operation, in terms of the possible anti-portable, anti-irregular opponents. This will include the need to provide cover for the electronic transport aircraft by specialized forces and means of electronic warfare. Also, it is desirable that the future operations of this type would widely use a special aircraft that should carry out the tasks as part of psychological operations, emitting area specific content in the radio and television transmissions, as well as conducting propaganda dump shares in various forms. It is worth noting that the size of the aviation force groups comprising the expeditionary force will be relatively small.


The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept has successfully defined its core competencies and directs the activities of NATO to conduct expeditionary operations over the next decade. Without a doubt, NATO will be more effective in countering threats to expeditionary operations, if the vision transcribed in the Strategic Concept is implemented. NATO’s new strategy responds to internal and external threats that may endanger the cohesion of NATO, but also secure the international peace. On the other hand, the provisions of the Alliance’s Strategic Concept will be able to shape the near future only if NATO member states develop the necessary operational capabilities and reforms aimed at achieving expeditionary capabilities. The key factor here seems to be the political will of individual countries and the increase in defence spending, as well as increasing the cooperation between member states.

The experience gained from participation in NATO missions outside its borders clearly indicates that one of the key areas of developing expeditionary capability is aviation. Today, it is undoubtedly difficult to imagine expeditionary tasks without aviation. In some situations, it is the only agent capable of enforcing international law or helping those in need. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the operation in Libya led by NATO indicate a number of shortcomings in this area. This applies in particular to the strategic air mobility resources (air transport, air-to-air refuelling), suppression of enemy air defence resources, lack of unmanned aerial systems, electronic warfare and surveillance and reconnaissance assets. These shortcomings are crucial in developing expeditionary capabilities in relation to aviation. It should be emphasized that Smart Defence initiative accepted by the Alliance during NATO summit in Chicago will partly solve those shortcomings.

Aviation involved in expeditionary operations independently or as a support of expeditionary groups should be characterized by specific properties, adequate for the particular operation. The expected scope of its use in expeditionary operations will depend on the character of the operation and doctrinal statement.

In conclusion, the Aviation in NATO expeditionary operations is and will be one of the key aspects; in light of the new Strategic Concept of NATO one can suppose that aviation’s operational capabilities will be developed in the entire Alliance.

[1] Active Engagement, Modern Defence. Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon. [online]. [cit. 2013-03-14]. Available from:

[2] HALISKY, Joseph G. NATO 2020: A viable new strategic concept for expeditionary operations. [online]. U.S. Army War College. Carlisle Barracks. pp. 10-20. [cit. 2013-03-15]. Available from:

[3] SENDMEYER, Scott A. NATO Strategy and Out-of-Area Operations. [online]. School of Advanced Military Studies United States Army Command and General Staff College. Fort Leavenworth. Kansas. pp. 36-40. [cit. 2013-03-15]. Available from:

[4] NATO operations under a new Strategic Concept and the EU as an operational partner. [online]. [cit. 2013-03-15]. Available from:

[5] Speech by Prof. Dr. Rob de Wijk on NATO’s new Strategic Concept. [online]. MCCS Lisbon. [cit. 2013-03-15]. Available from:

[6] Munich Conference on Security Policy (Munich, Germany). As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. [online]. Munich, Germany, Sunday, February 10, 2008. [cit. 2013-03-16]. Available from:

[7] SABIN, P. The current and future utility of Air and Space Power. [online]. RAFCAPS Discussion Paper No 1. Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies. HQ Air Command 2010. p. 4. [cit. 2013-03-16]. Available from: %20No1_By%20Professor%20Philip%20S.pdf

[8] AAR CONOPS. [online]. pp. 5-7. [cit. 2013-03-16]. Available from:

[9] GONGORA, T. The Meaning of Expeditionary Operations from an Air Force Perspective.[online]. p. 10. [cit. 2013-03-16]. Available from:

[10] GONGORA, ref. 9. p. 11

[11] ZAJAS, S. (edit.). Studium przyszłości sił powietrznych. Kierunki rozwoju do 2025 roku, Wydawnictwo AON, Warszawa 2009. p.34

[12] MARSZAŁEK, M. Wybrane aspekty użycia sił powietrznych w sojuszniczych operacjach humanitarnych. Zeszyty Naukowe AON. 2006, no. 4, p. 204. ISSN 0867-2245

[13] AJP-3.4 Non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations. NATO Standardization Agency, Brussels 2010. pp. 3-12

[14] ZAJAS, ref. 11. p. 32

[15] KOZUB, M. Użycie lotnictwa sił powietrznych w rozwiązywaniu problemów bezpieczeństwa na początku XXI wieku (część II). Myśl Wojskowa. 2004, no. 5, pp. 55-59

Title in English:

Aviation in NATO’s Expeditionary Operation in the Context of Alliance’s Strategic Concept

Title in Czech:

Letectvo v expediční operaci NATO v kontextu Strategické koncepce Aliance










Obrana a strategie


University of Defence


ISSN 1214-6463 (print) and ISSN 1802-7199 (on-line)




Volume 13, Number 2 (December 2013)




6 September 2013


25 October 2013

Published online:

15 December 2013

Created 15.12.2013 15:57:07 | read 6737x | Frank


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