“It is important to be able to tell the close to one billion people we protect what we are doing
and this is covered in this Annual Report,”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
said this Monday at the launch of his Annual
Report for 2016. “NATO is a transatlantic alliance
of 28 – soon to be 29 – democracies. Our strength lies in our shared values. Our common goal is to preserve peace and security. In a dangerous world, NATO is as essential as ever. At this pivotal time, the Alliance is strong, because we continue to adapt.”
“The Annual Report gives a good overview of NATO’s activities in 2016 to unite the forces for protecting the citizens. Separated in the seven chapters “Deterrence, Defence & Dialogue”, “Investing in Security”, “Improving Capabilities”, “Projecting Stability”, “Projecting Stability:
Cultivating Partnerships”, “Promoting the Role of Women” and “Organisation” the report describes the most important actions
taken in 2016.
One of the main goals of NATO is to deliver
capabilities in order to improve or standardize
performance and save money. “Under
the Smart Defence umbrella – an initiative
launched in 2012 to facilitate multinational
capability delivery – Allies completed four
projects in 2016, bringing the total number
of projects completed to 12,” the report
“The completed projects cover a broad spectrum of capability delivery activities, such as logistical partnerships to more effectively
support the operation of helicopters and armoured vehicles, or the development of standards, doctrines, and concepts of operations, for instance, for the deployment of Harbour Protection capabilities,” a NATO official told ESD Spotlight.
“The four projects completed in 2016 are in the following areas: A network of E-learning training centres; Maritime Patrol Aircraft pooling; Harbour protection; Armoured Ambulances. Moving forward, Allies will continue to pursue multinational opportunities in a wide range of areas under the Smart Defence banner. Examples include an effort under which Allies are currently acquiring, multi-nationally, air-to-ground Precision Guided Munitions, and the creation and operation of a network of multinational training facilities for helicopter crews.”
Because one of the main tasks of NATO is to protect their populace – and the proliferation of medium to long range missiles, cruise missiles and rockets is increasing – the Alliance’s missile defence system is still of high priority and continues to grow. “In 2016, the Alliance established a conceptual basis for integrating its air and missile defence systems,” the Annual Report states as one of the major achievements.
“The new system provides the means for NATO’s two IAMD peacetime missions: Air Policing and Ballistic Missile Defence. The implementation of the new Air Command and Control System and the further development of NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defence have been important milestones in achieving this. NATO declared that its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) had achieved Initial Operational Capability at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, meaning that the Alliance is better able to defend its populations, territory and forces against the increasing threat posed by ballistic missiles from outside the Euro Atlantic area. A significant portion of the strengthened missile defence capability is represented by the Aegis Ashore site in Romania, which is now capable of 24/7 operations. This asset is complemented by other US BMD elements deployed in Europe, as well as by additional voluntary national contributions offered by European Allies. The NATO Air Command and Control System (ACCS) has moved from the procurement and testing phase to the delivery phase. The validation period, involving four countries, is expected to be completed in 2017, and the delivery of ACCS to another 11 countries has already begun. The NATO
Command Structure is also on course to declare Initial Operational Capability for ACCS in 2017, with a small number of command
and control centres already using the system for operations.”
With the Alliance Ground Surveillance system NATO wants to offer reliable information to its Allies. “In 2016, NATO made tangible progress on Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS), which will be the first NATO-owned and -operated Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) system,” the report states. With these shared
systems all NATO countries will be able to receive trustworthy data without the need to carry the risk of new technologies on their own, since all NATO members have paid for the systems. “AGS will perform persistent surveillance over wide areas from remotely piloted aircraft operating at considerable ‘stand-off’ distances and
in any weather or light conditions. Using advanced radar sensors, the system will be able continuously to detect and track moving objects and provide radar imagery of areas of interest on the ground and at sea. As such, AGS will complement NATO AWACS,” according to rhe report.
“The AGS Core will be an integrated system consisting of air, ground and support segments. The air segment includes five Global Hawk aircraft. The first NATO Global Hawk took off for its maiden flight in Palmdale, California in December 2015, followed by further test flights in June, July, and December 2016. The first NATO Global Hawk is expected to fly from the US to its new home in Sigonella in Italy in 2017.”
Another major future task mentioned in the report is to develop a Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR) and to integrate this into its strategic preparedness. Since the development of most ISR capabilities has been purely national, building a common picture has been quite a challenge for NATO.
“2016 was an important year for NATO’s JISR capability. In February 2016, Allied Defence Ministers declared Initial Operational Capability for JISR. Initial Operational Capability is organised upon three pillars: enhancing interconnectivity across NATO systems, improving training and expertise among NATO personnel, and implementing procedures for information handling and sharing,” the report states.
“The JISR trial Unified Vision 2016 in June built upon these achievements and further evaluated and demonstrated the breadth of JISR missions. The trial involved over 400 participants from 17 countries and took place at ten different locations, including live and simulated JISR assets. In October, Luxembourg announced that it will provide
resources for the acquisition of servers to support the automated sharing of JISR information in a coalition environment. These servers will be fully owned and operated by NATO.”
The data presented in the Annual Report show a clear picture: after years of budget cuts and declining importance the Alliance
has grown stronger and achieved major milestones in almost every area of interest in 2016. NATO is surely not a relic of the Cold War any more, but a most modern and powerful Alliance, staying together for the safety of its citizens. Or, as Stoltenberg said at the presentation of the report:
“At no time since the end of the Cold War has NATO faced greater challenges to its security than it does today. The report shows how much NATO is doing to adapt to this new security environment, acting with determination, to strengthen our collective defence and to project stability beyond our borders. In 2014 and 2015 we began to implement the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation, and
in 2016 we took further steps to keep our citizens safe.”
(Source: ESD Spotlight)