NATO debates creation of new special operations air wing

Source:  Jane’s

The head of NATO’s nascent Special Operations Coordination Centre says the international organisation is considering the creation of a new special operations air wing.

Brigadier General Lance Mans, deputy director of NATO Special Operations Coordination said that the new force would start on a small scale, consisting of around eight helicopters and a few unmanned aircraft. Countries that lack special operations-relevant aircraft would be able to buy flying hours on the aircraft to contribute to counterinsurgencies and other special operations-related campaigns.

“It would essentially focus on the troop-carrying side [which is in demand in Afghanistan], as well as unmanned vehicles for surveillance, which again are hugely in demand when conducting special operations,” Gen Mans explained during a speech at a Washington conference organised by the US Air Force (USAF) and the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

Gen Mans emphasised that there were still “many hurdles” to overcome and that the idea was still a “vision” at this point.

Nevertheless, he said that discussions about a special operations air wing in NATO have been continuing over the past 18 months and said it would be an “integral element” of NATO’s developing special operations forces.

The new air wing would likely be modelled on the existing NATO arrangement for C-17 Globemaster III airlifters, he added. Under that arrangement, three C-17 aircraft are jointly operated by 12 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries participating in the Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) consortium. These countries can buy flying time on the aircraft to provide airlift for combat or peacekeeping operations or for humanitarian relief, for example most recently in Haiti.

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