About Me

My photo
MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

12 March 2015

NATO Lacks Organic ISR Capabilities

Coalition partners from across NATO gathered in London this week to discuss the impact of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) on the contemporary and future operating environments.

Delegates from Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, UK and US convened at the Airborne ISR & C2 Battle Management conference on 11/12 March to highlight the greatest challenges for NATO in the face of both regular and irregular threats.

According to one senior NATO representative, the emergence of such conventional and unconventional threats was nothing new but rather the method in which they were employed and integrated. The source highlighted Islamic State (IS) and Russia as two examples of such a strategy which is seeing the proliferation of hybrid warfare worldwide.

Delegates referred to NATO’s “eastern” and “southern” flanks in relation to these current threats with opponents further developing intelligence-driven operations. Sources described difficulties in monitoring mobile targets in Ukraine with the US Northern Command (NORCOM) reverting back to a Cold War-style “two-minute decision” cycle to counter any ballistic missile threat.

Weather and terrain in this area were also highlighted as areas in which ISR capabilities required improvement, following on from a decade of operating in clear and open skies of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile on NATO’s southern flank, IS continues to optimise an interesting example of intelligence-driven operations with professionally produced films of executions, training packages and missions in Syria and northern Iraq. This flank is also witnessing a growing influx of foreign fighters as well as increasing affiliation of extremist organisations between IS in the Middle East and factions in North and West Africa particularly, including most recently Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Another source, who has worked closely with NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) over the past decade, revealed how former al-Qaeda combatants were reappearing in different countries and proving more and more difficult to capture due to an understanding of NATO tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

Delegates also highlighted NATO’s lack of organic ISR capability, describing how the Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) effort (comprising Northrop Grumman Block 40 RQ-4 GLOBAL HAWK high altitude long endurance [HALE] UAS technology) would not achieve initial operating capacity until 2017.

Describing how the US Air Force currently flies an average of 185 ISR sorties every day, a service official continued: “ISR is [fundamental to] operations. It never stops and is an integral part of that operational kill chain at all times. But there is a requirement for any service’s ISR sensors to be PED’d by the best node, thereby providing more effective support to any customer requiring information, and this will allow us to work better with our partners.”

Also highlighted at the event was the NATO Response Force (NRF) which comprises a “highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and SOF components” that the Alliance can deploy quickly, wherever needed.

Referring to equipping this force element, another NATO source told MT: “In addition to its operational role, the NRF can be used for greater cooperation in education and training, increased exercises and better use of [ISR] technology.”

On 5 February, NATO upgraded an element of the NRF to become a “spearhead force” known as the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), capable of deploying at very short notice to the “periphery of NATO’s territory”- particularly relevant to member states in the Baltic area of operations.

The VJTF comprises five manoeuvre battalions with certain SOF units capable of mobilising within two or three days.

France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK will assume the role of lead nation for rotations of this force and in the meantime, an Interim VJTF capability has been established for 2015 led by Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, with other Allies participating, and has already started training and exercising,” a NATO spokesperson added. “The VJTF will be backed up by two more brigades as a rapid-reinforcement capability in case of a major crisis. Altogether, the enhanced NATO Response Force will count up to around 30,000 troops.”

Finally, NATO officials confirmed the importance of such a force element to be equipped with the best ISR capabilities available with one SOF source noting the importance of Human Terrain Reconnaissance (HTR) teams also being deployed on the ground from “Phase Zero” of an operation through to its conclusion.

NATO is facing long term and sophisticated challenges,” one source informed MT. “These are geographically dispersed and multi-axis threats requiring the alliance to improve intelligence sharing and capacity building as well as securing shortfalls in ISR and processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) of information. ISR will be first in [theatre] and we must have sufficient multi-intelligence ISR capabilities assigned to an area of interest."
Andrew White

No comments:

Post a Comment