NATO Air Policing in Slovenian Air space and Slovenian air capabilities

Today there was a virtual presentation of what are currently the Slovenian air capabilities and NATO Air Policing in Slovenian Air Space.

The presentation, held online due to Covid issues, was organized and moderated by NATO International Staff and involved several pilots and commanders of the 15th Slovenian Wing, with the participation of pilots protagonists of the air defense, from Hungary with the Saab Gripen and from Italy with Eurofighter Typhoon.

The interesting presentation was articulated in several points, giving ample space to the questions of the journalists present and adding a walkaround of Pilatus PC-9 and Ab412, two of the aircraft in use by armed force

NATO AIR POLICING

NATO Air Policing is a peacetime collective defence mission, which is at the very heart of NATO’s founding treaty. It ensures the integrity of Allies’ airspace and protects Alliance nations by maintaining continuous a 24/7 Air Policing within Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s (SACEUR’s) area of responsibility.

On behalf of SACEUR, Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base, Germany oversees the peacetime mission of NATO Air Policing. The Allied mission involves the use of the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS), Air Command and Control (Air C2) and appropriate air assets, so called Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) or QRA(I) fast jets.

As the term “policing” suggests, just like the national police forces on the ground respond to anything out of the ordinary – e.g. protest rally, traffic accident or property offence – NATO jets take off to monitor so called events, i.e. unusual or uncertain situations in the air.

NATO Air Policing scrambles respond to military and civilian aircraft that do not follow international flight regulations and approach Allies’ airspace. These actions can create unsafe environments. For instance they may cause air-to-air accidents. They may also indicate hostile acts such as hijackings. NATO Air Policing inside and near NATO Airspace will continue to respond to aircraft not complying with international flight regulations or aircraft operating near NATO boundaries.

NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) at Uedem, Germany, and Torrejon, Spain, oversee the conduct of air policing efforts. They initiate and monitor all launches of NATO-assigned QRA(I) and report to Headquarters Allied Air Command where all information about intercepts is registered in the Air Policing and Reporting section.

SPECIAL NATO AIR POLICING ARRANGEMENTS

Preserving the integrity of NATO airspace is a collective task. For NATO nations that do not have the necessary air capabilities (Albania, Estonia, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia), agreements exist to ensure airspace security within SACEUR’s area of responsibility.

Since January 2017, the BENELUX Air Policing arrangement for the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg means that the Belgian Air Component and the Royal Netherlands Air Force are taking turns to ensure QRA(I) fighter jets are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year, under NATO control.

NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Baltic States (Baltic Air Policing or BAP) has been executed since April 2004; so far, 17 Allies have participated in this mission deploying interceptor capabilities to safeguard the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

BAP is a regional form of NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission, demonstrating the ability of the Alliance to share and pool existing capabilities. Like NATO Air Policing in the rest of European Allies territory, BAP is conducted to protect the integrity of Allies’ airspace. Presently, the Belgian Air Force leads Baltic Air Policing out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, and the German Air Force supports the mission out of Ämari Air Base, Estonia.

The NATO mission in Iceland – called Airborne Surveillance and Interception Capabilities to Meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs (ASIC-IPPN) – is a peacetime mission, which is specific and unique to Iceland. Allies, in conjunction with the Icelandic authorities, have agreed that the appropriate response is to maintain a periodic presence of NATO fighter aircraft based at Keflavik to help keep Icelandic airspace safe and secure. These aircraft familiarise with the airspace and execute the NATO mission in Icelandic airspace to ensure the Alliance can conduct full-scale peacetime Air Policing activities at the shortest possible notice if required by real world events.

Enhanced Air Policing (eAP) is part of NATO’s Assurance Measures introduced in 2014. At the time the Alliance started implementing these Assurance Measures with the goal to demonstrate the collective resolve of Allies, demonstrate the defensive nature of NATO and deter Russia from aggression or the threat of aggression against NATO Allies. eAP missions are conducted in the Baltics and temporarily over Romania and Bulgaria.

The NATO Air Policing arrangements for Albania, Montenegro and Slovenia ensure one standard of airspace security for the Allies that do not have an interceptor capability in their military inventory.

In Slovenia, the mission is shared by the Hungarian Air Force and the Italian Air Force, while in Albania, the Italian Air Force and the Hellenic Air Force provide this capability.

Both Allies – Italy and Greece – will henceforth extend their important contribution to NATO Air Policing to also cover the airspace over Montenegro. In these cases, the fighters remain stationed at their home bases, but the CAOC at Torrejon can launch them to respond to air incidents inside the other Allies’ airspace.

We are proud of our contribution to NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence,” said Chief of the Slovenian Air Force during a previous meeting. “I would like to use this opportunity to thank both Italy and Hungary as well as our NATO colleagues at the CAOC and Allied Air Command for safeguarding our airspace in this perfect example of applied collective defence in peacetime,” he added in conclusion.

The Slovenian Air Force regularly conducts training with Italian and Hungarian fighter aircraft, which provide the interceptor capability for NATO’s Air Policing mission safeguarding the airspace over Slovenia.

HOW DOES AN AIR POLICING INTERCEPT WORK IN PRACTICAL TERMS?

Allied radars pick up a track of interest out of the 30,000 air movements daily inside the European airspace. If the corresponding aircraft is not squawking (using its transponder) or is not in radio contact with civilian air traffic control or has not filed a flight plan, the track is reported to one of the two NATO CAOCs (at Uedem,Germany, and Torrejon, Spain) which decides whether or not to launch a Quick Reaction Alert (Interceptor) aircraft from one of the Allies’ air bases that are on 24/7 stand-by for such missions.

Once launched the QRA(I) jet is controlled by a Control and Reporting Centre and brought up close to the unidentified aircraft.

In accordance with the respective International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and NATO documents the NATO Air Policing jets conduct their scrambles professionally and predictably. This ensures that the pilot of the intercepted aircraft has visual contact and is aware of how the interception is proceeding. Ensuring flight safety is priority number one. This is further amplified by national flying regulations.

The CAOC will monitor the whole operation and report to HQ AIRCOM where all information about intercepts is registered in the Air Policing and Reporting section. All scrambles are initiated by a CAOC and conducted with NATO-assigned aircraft.

After the explanation inherent in the air policing, we have moved to view the Slovenian armed force in its aviation component, listening to 15th Wing Commander,16th Control and Report Centre operation officer, 152nd Fix Wing Squadron Commander, and 151st Rotary Wing Squadron Commander.

SLOVENIAN ARMED FORCES

The Slovenian Armed Forces (slovenskavojska) provide military defence independently or within an alliance, in accordance with international agreements.

The Slovenian Armed Forces is not divided into branches, but it includes nine services:

  • infantry
  • armoured units
  • aviation
  • naval units
  • artillery
  • air defence
  • engineering
  • chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence
  • signals

15th WING

The main tasks of the 15th wing of the Slovenian Armed Forces Aviation are:

  • Air surveillance and control
  • Air combat support to Slovenian Armed Forces
  • Tactical air transport
  • Stabilization tasks in Crisis Response Operations
  • Cooperation in activities for civil protection and rescue

15th Wing is composed by: 151st Sq, 152nd Sq, 16th CRC, 153rd Ams , FS and 107 AB

151st ROTARY WING SQUADRON

This is the squadron of helicopters that, equipped with 4 As532 Cougar and 8 Ab412, guarantees the services of:

  • Tactical air transport
  • Combat support
  • MEDEVAC
  • Fire fighting
  • Line maintenance
  • Training of airmen

Helicopters and crews can operate in different contexts and situations, both day and night, both in IFR and VFR and also with the use of NVG headsets

152nd FIXED WING SQUADRON

This is the squadron of airplanes that, equipped with 9 PC-9M, 2 PC-6, 1 L410, 1 Falcon 2000 EX guarantees the services of:

  • Combat Support
  • Close Air Support (CAS)
  • National Air Policing
  • Advanced & Combat Flight Training
  • TACP/FAC Training (Tactical Air Control Party)
  • GCI & GBAD (Ground Based Air Defense) Training Support
  • Tactical & VIP Air Transport
  • Line Maintenance

Airplanes and crews can operate in different contexts and situations, both day and night, both in IFR and VFR and also with the use of NVG headsets

16th COMMAND AND REPORTING CENTRE

With tasks of Air Surveillance, Weapons Control, Battle Management and Information Management the main equipments of the command and reporting centre are 2 LRR (long-range radar– GM 403) and 5 MSRR (Mobile-short-range radar) joined by the ASOC ( Air Sovereignty Operations Center) and the Communication and information system.

Armed force activities are also supported by the 107th AIR BASE, providing airport services, logistic support to the Air Force units and Force Protection.

The flight school, which operates Ab206 helicopters, Zlin 143 and  Zlin 242 fixed-wing aircraft and the 153rd AIRCRAFT MAINTENANCE SQUADRON, also play a key role. The latter is responsible for the 2nd and 3rd line(depot) maintenance

Photo copyright: Miro Majcen, Uros Podlogar, NATO AIRCOM, Slovenian armed forces

Video credits: Slovenian armed forces

“NATO AIR POLICING”, “AIR POLICING INTERCEPT WORK IN PRACTICAL TERMS” and “NATO AIR POLICING ARRANGEMENTS” provided by NATO ALLIED AIR COMMAND

Special thanks to Otto K., NATO International Staff-Press and Media, for the organization of the event and for the invitation

Author: Luca Ocretti

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