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Special Operations Aviation in NATO: A Vector to the Future

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Special operations airaviation in NATO is coming of age. Within the alliance, NATO member nations have devoted significant resources to enhance the capabilities and maintain the relevance of their ground and maritime Special Operations Forces SOF. That has not always been the case with the special operations air and aviation elements, though. The good news is that times are changing. It is encouraging to note that air-oriented SOF within NATO are growing in numbers and in capabilities. This bodes well for the alliance as it transforms defense capabilities to enable an expeditionary force. Out-of-area military operations by NATO and its member states in the past half decade -- for example, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Sudan -- have demonstrated the need for organic special operations airaviation forces. But they have also shown that not all special operations air assets need to be highly capable, complex airplanes and helicopters. Many missions can be safely accomplished by highly trained crews using conventional, unmodified aircraft. Time and again, SOF aviators have reaffirmed the validity of a SOF truth, Humans are more important than hardware. It was SOF aviators, flying conventional aircraft better than their non-SOF counterparts, that proved it is the person, not the technology, that defines special operations. This monograph offers one path to consider as NATOs air and aviation forces develop their special operations capabilities. A Vector to the Future suggests a measured approach to developing a NATO SOF air capability. It proposes a minimum standard for a nation to certify its proffered aviation resources as special operations, yet acknowledges that some nations will choose to invest in sophisticated aircraft and specially trained crews. The monograph shows how the minimum standard facilitates interoperability and sets a course vector for development.

Subject Categories:

  • Aircraft
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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