Fifth Generation Air Power in the Transatlantic Battlespace

Event hosted by : Atlantic Council

Event location : Canadian Embassy in Berlin

Event date : October 7, 2019.

Great power competition is increasingly returning to the forefront, and this was reflected in the seminar hosted by the Atlantic Council located in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. The event deciphered the technological developments and innovations regarding air force strategies by the United States and NATO as a whole.

While the importance of land and sea units in the military is always crucial for a successful operation, it is true that airpower has dominated since the advent of the second world war. Technologies in combatting incoming missiles, space technology, and drone / cyber warfare have become the forte of modern air forces, giving them an edge in current and future forms of conflict.

I had even asked how land and sea forces would benefit from these developments, with the response that dominating the skies was generally the most effective way of protecting all other facets of a military.

The event posited that the focus on counter-terrorism that dominated the last two decades may be phased out or exist alongside a Neo Cold War approach to international security where great powers seek out advanced innovations to outbid each other. While they may not likely engage in direct warfare, the uncertainty of NATO’s relationship with Russia and China was brought up multiple times, hinting towards the necessity of a contingency plan should the impossible occur. Not to mention, even unconventional non-state actors have developed their own ways to counter modern air forces, forcing the need to innovate anyway.

Speakers of note included General Frank Gorenc, USAF (Ret.), Former commander, United States Air Forces Europe and Africa, and former commander of NATO Allied Air Command. The recounting of his experiences while in command gave a bigger picture of how International Security was evolving, especially with how he had compared the need to innovate in the modern day with the arms races of the 1980s when he had his first postings. In essence, these innovations in airpower make it evident NATO high command is anticipating a return to Cold War norms if we haven’t returned to these norms already.

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