EDA, NATO consider AAR challenges
A joint European Defence Agency (EDA)-NATO air-to-air refuelling (AAR) conference has taken place to discuss current and future challenges and coordinate efforts in the AAR domain.
Including key decision makers from the EU, NATO and the wider transatlantic and international AAR community, the conference focused on ways to enhance Euro-Atlantic AAR interoperability, including the optimisation of existing capabilities and the development of new capabilities, along with operational and industrial implications.
A number of programmes have already been initiated to mitigate Europe’s capability gap in the field of AAR, including the establishment of a multinational MRTT fleet, AAR exercises organised by the European Air Transport Command, and the initial entrance into service of the A400M, but capability remains lacking.
Jorge Domecq, EDA chief executive, said: ‘What we really need is to ensure that the AAR shortfall, like capability gaps in other areas, is addressed in a more systematic way.’
Reconfirmation of ARR as an EU Capability Development Priority will enable the continuation of this effort, and work is now underway to implement the priorities through Strategic Context Cases.
Domecq said: ‘In the short-term, the main challenge is to optimise the use of the existing AAR assets available in Europe, and we can do that through, for example, increased participation in annual European AAR Training. But we can also increase interoperability by increasing AAR clearances - because a tanker without a clearance is not a tanker.’
In the medium-term, the challenge is to cover the peak demand in AAR during the initial phase of an operation or conflict when air superiority is not yet assured, for instance by expanding the MMF fleet.
In the longer term, the challenge is to close the remaining capability gap, both in strategic and tactical AAR, including by developing automated/autonomous air to air refuelling systems as a useful complement to manned AAR capabilities.
Work will continue in January 2020 when Member States and industry will come together to discuss the way ahead.
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