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Aug 11 2020

Knowing NATO: Air Operations Centre of Excellence

SHAPE, Belgium - NATO Centres of Excellence (COE) are multi-nationally or nationally established and sponsored entities. These COE’s offer recognised expertise and experience within a defined subject matter area to the benefit of the Alliance within the four pillars of NATO's COE programme. The centres are not part of the NATO Command Structure (NCS) or of other NATO entities, but form part of the wider framework that contributes to the functioning of the Alliance.

The mission of the Centre of Analysis and Simulation for the Preparation of Air Operations (CASPOA), also referred to as AO COE, is to enhance air operations across the NATO Command Structure, NATO Force Structure (NFS), with NATO partners and to support the development of air operations capabilities, concepts and doctrine.

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, fly in formation with Swedish Armed Forces JAS-39 Gripen fighters during a Bomber Task Force Europe mission over Sweden, May 20, 2020. The mission marked the first time B-1s have flown over Sweden to integrate with Swedish Gripen while conducting close-air support training with Swedish Joint Terminal Attack Controller ground teams at Vidsel Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)

"The Air Operations (AO) encompass a vast domain that directly supports political end states with joint military effect," said Colonel Yann Villevieille, commander of CASPOA. "The experts in the COE continue to impress as they face multiple NATO challenges including day-to-day maintenance of Air Command and Control (Air C2) courses, development of Air C2 systems, analysis of lessons learned from recent air operations, support of Joint Air Power doctrine development and visions of the future in multi domain operations and artificial intelligence (AI) integration.”

Air Operations encompass a vast domain that directly supports political end states with joint military effect

The CASPOA, AO COE, is a multi-nationally manned, French funded organisation, situated near the city of Lyon, France. It draws on experience and skills within air operations, technical simulation and Air C2 systems domains. AO COE personnel include highly trained resident officers from the French Air Force, Army and Navy, as well as Italy and the United States, providing a diverse, joint air operations perspective of all activities.

AO COE aspires to provide NATO with primary tactical training and expertise in the AO domain and to cover the full spectrum of NATO’s AO discipline through courses listed in NATO’s Education and Training Opportunities Catalogue. Working closely with Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation, AO COE provides education and training to warfighters who plan, task, command and control air operations. These warfighters contribute to C2 experimentation in the technical realm as well as concept and doctrine development, shaping the future of the AO domain.

In support of education and training, AO COE provides state-of-the-art courses including current operations room simulation capabilities. This room is capable of training up to 35 students with large-scale, 250-sortie Computer Aided Exercise (CAX) scenarios, and can host complex AO exercises with up to 100 current operations positions.

An Italian Air Force, Aeronautica Militare, F-35B conducts air-to-air refuelling with an Italian KC-130J. (Photo by Giovanni Colla).

In line with NATO Allied Air Command requirements, AO COE will continue to execute the responsibilities of Air C2 systems Department Head with the support of a dedicated Internet Technology department and technical infrastructure. Seeking to continually enhance its products, AO COE works closely with NFS Joint Force Air Components (JFACs), international militaries, industry, and governmental and non-governmental agencies.

Some of the AO COE’s major activities scheduled for 2020 include delivering over 60 training events, welcoming roughly 1000 students, designing, planning and implementing a multi-nation 10 day Air C2 JFAC theatre level CAX, continuing to contribute to future Air C2 systems development, testing and evaluation, and providing guidance for the Allied Command Operations joint targeting community both as subject matter experts and training providers.

The number of NATO COEs is consistently growing under the coordination authority of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), General Andre Lanata. Through the Military Committee (MC) Concept and the NATO accreditation criteria, COEs have proven to be a successful and enduring model for strong multinational solutions. As a result, the NATO Command and Force Structures are supported by a robust network of COEs, which are nationally or multi-nationally managed, funded and open for participation by NATO and Partner Nations.  NATO-wide there are currently 25 accredited COEs with three additionally under development.

Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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