Air and Space
Declining resources and
the alliance’s mission.
BY GEORGE I. SEFFERS
In recent decades, air power has been NATO’s first, and sometimes only, military response to a threat. But tightened budgets and dwindling resources are placing air power in a death spiral driven by declining readiness, a shrinking force structure and an ever-smaller residual fighting capacity, say
NATO’s foremost experts on air and space power.
“Air power is always one of the first things we use in all conflicts of the last 20 years. We’ve used it as a tool of preference
for the politicians; yet if you look at the reductions and budget
cuts, they hurt air power the most,” says Air Cdre. Madelein
Spit, Royal Netherlands Air Force, who serves as assistant
director of the Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC),
NATO’s center of excellence for air and space power.
It is logical, Cdre. Spit points out, for nations to eliminate
air and space systems because they can “save a lot of money
by killing one program,” but with so many nations cutting so
drastically, the allies may soon be unable to fulfill the commitments they’ve made and could face losses on the battlefield.
“In the end, what’s at stake is the security of the entire alliance.
We are an alliance of 28 nations, and we vowed to each other
that we would help in case something went bad,” she declares.
“Worst-case scenario is that we won’t be able to live up to our
promises to the nations that are part of the alliance. We’ll have
to let someone down,” the commodore says.
Based on recent conflicts, the general public may believe
NATO enjoys tremendous air power superiority. On the
other hand, recent foes were not a threat in the air—but
U. S. Air Force aircraft of the 4th Fighter Wing fly over Kuwaiti oil
fires set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert
Storm in 1991. NATO air power has not been challenged in
recent conflicts, but with resources and capabilities dwindling,
NATO officials are sounding warning bells about the future.