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Linking Maritime and Air Power

Thank you.

Very great honour to be here amongst such august company.

Perhaps in this audience I am a fish out of water but it’s good to be here. I am honoured to be given the chance to speak. I have found over the last five or so years that I have the most in common with my airmen friends; in this new world of conflict and threat, hybrid and uncertainty,  the air and space domain feels very like the maritime and undersea domain.

Our appreciation, understanding and approaches are similar; both at the tactical level and in conversations between commanders.  I will return to this later.

I had hoped to be on this podium with my battle buddy Vice Admiral Woody Lewis. We spent last week in Naples chewing over Maritime C2 – chewing is perhaps the wrong word – the link between JFC Norfolk is an exciting and strong one and we will present a Maritime C2 picture to General Scaparotti that is refreshingly simple and fresh – and we think will actually work in a fight. 

It is also probably is worth noting that there is one segment of our circle missing and that is the Commander of the Striking Force NATO & the US 6th Fleet - Admiral Lisa Franchetti.   In the three of us you see the composite that is Maritime NATO.  Given her role as the conduit to US Striking Fleets (the Carrier Strike Groups and Expeditionary Strike Groups) her link binds us ever more closely to air power.


General Everard set the context when we spoke of readiness and force generation. Woody was going to speak about his perspectives and his massive job setting up both 2nd Fleet and also JFC Norfolk.   I perhaps will offer a pragmatic view as a NATO Component Commander, with AIRCOM the only one who has standing assets consistently under his command.

You all know the context and the threat; Russians, Radicals Refugees and Rhetoric - as SACEUR so elegantly phrased it very early in his tenure.  We have seen these threats repeat in all regions of NATO’s interest. 

I would suggest that three and a half years have added a new player in the form of China; a greying of the boundaries, political distraction and rather surprisingly an institutional loss of confidence.

I say surprising because in many ways NATO has modernised faster, been more operational, more agile and more thoughtful than we have seen for decades.

So, we know the threats - or at least if countries cannot agree on the absolute definition of the threat - we know the actors and the activities that they are undertaking.

Nature of the fight:

What I would say is that the nature of the threat is changing

That means we must think differently; no longer are we looking at boundaries or the need to focus on holding territory.  We are thinking anew about what deterrence is and what posture is.  How do we contain and what is the true meaning of deterrence, persistent presence and readiness. 

General Everard has set out the stall very clearly.

MARCOM’s principal conclusion is that the sea, the maritime battlespace, feels different.  Threats are not just binary, not just to the East, or to the South.  Not just Russia, anti-submarine warfare or migration.
Threats are now all linked to defence, security and the environment and are both persistent and fleeting and several can, and are, emerging simultaneously.  Threats might be behind us or in territory we thought was our back yard. 

Threats - all the threats - are positioned like counters on a chess board;.  This image, the chessboard, with events popping up and surprises becoming the norm defines our focus;

Missiles and hybrid are now driving conventional thinking. Article 4 driving Article 5.  it These threats need todrives our response with agility, the understanding ofs escalation control, containment and deterrence – and especially effect and messaging linked to strategic aims. 

This is not a conventional way of looking at the world.

We would also suggest that the seas and oceans are the Alliance’s new frontier - not unlike space or cyber;   Indeed, the operational environment does not have an edge or a boundary but is all around us and is temporal.  We cannot talk about the North or the Atlantic in isolation or as though it is the only sector.  Challenge will come from many locations – perhaps at the same time.  360 is critical. Successful balance, posture and messaging depends on it.

It is new in that sense that it is a return to the past but in a more complex geo-political climate which is set in a fiercely competitive arena and an environment of limited elasticity.

We also believe that Competition (at sea and/or in our heads) is not theoretical – it is real. Our assertion is that our competitors are mobilising to maximise their chances in an increasingly congested world and this explains much of the behaviour of those who worry us.   Our assertion is that Russia's strategic planning is preparing it for a period of intense competition and it is readying itself for this challenge; not just to their West but to their South, North and East as well. 

We would also suggest that China is following suit - hence their expansionism and the new "One Belt One Road” strategy – and just look at Djibouti – a daunting military outpost placed to guard the resupply of oil, food and raw materials.  Equally, look at Greenland where the Chinese economic might is trying to take hold!

 Both of these major powers are going to be robust competitors in an era where our planet is increasingly stressed and the impacts of events are completely interrelated and immediate.

And perhaps finally, and recognising everything I say is set in a joint context and wrapped up in the strength of the unity of the alliance,  I note that on a daily basis our ships, submarines, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft and sailors are operating in the direct presence of the ‘threat’ or ‘competition’ every day.  This is exactly the same as the QRA of our air component.  

We come up against Russians, Chinese, Terrorist related activity and migration across the Maritime JOA. Each on a daily basis.  Deterrence is, therefore, not a theoretical subject for the maritime and air – our people are balancing what it means and the messaging that comes off activity on a daily basis.

So what must we do about it and what do we need…

We must first understand the Joint Nature of the Fight. Well, let me first place this in a joint context as it is the only place where Maritime Matters. 

We are but one part of the jigsaw and the holistic capability is far more powerful than the sum of the parts:  Equally the greatest success we are enjoying has been in the frame of deterrence and defence requested by nations and led by SHAPE but with co-ordination driven by JFC Naples and JFC Brunssum. 

Here, the work to understand Strategic Effect and Strategic Messaging has been invaluable and ground-breaking.   What I am posting here, is that while I speak as the Maritime Advocate and the Theatre Component Commander – please recognise I do so as an integrated part of a joint team. 

To understand the nature of the fight we must recognise that we need to tackle some challenges …

First, right from the outset we need to find time to think more clearly as whenever we fail to do proper research, to convert knowledge to understanding and that to wisdom we struggle.  The gap in our armour of a Joint Doctrine Cell is key and I know is recognised by many countries represented here.  Indeed, I am struck by the lovely parable – "Nasradinn’s Fable” about a fool who looks for his keys where there is light.  He never looks in the dark place where the keys have fallen.”

 We must recognise that Russia practices Maskarovka (the art of camouflage and deception) better than ever we will. 

We must also recognise that western societies generally are less comfortable considering the security of the sea and the air than the land.  We don’t have maritime air, and space issues in the common lexicon and patois, which is a weakness – I was intrigued how UAV’s suddenly jumped into the public view once Gatwick Airspace in South London was threatened.  

In an Atlantic Alliance we must work ceaselessly to understand the lessons of our predecessors as well as the revenge of geography and the environment.  And we sailors and airmen must educate and illustrate.  Stop being isolated and specialists.

We must then be quite direct in identifying the enemy and seeking to properly understand their approach. My sense, is that we are still seeing the enemy through our own particular weaknesses we are invariably surprised by what he does next. 

The English Academic, Professor Andrew Monahan (currently at Oxford University) chastises us, kindly, for our veneer deep understanding of the Russian Navy, its people and the hinterland within which they live.  He is right, we need to be careful of our ‘Wikipedia Level’ understanding.  This is why MARCOM is driving the concept of the Maritime Enterprise, The Maritime Hub to bring in all source information and intelligence and share it, hopefully with some value add, with other headquarters and Allies.

Finally, we are too often fixed on ‘our plan’ not that of our competitor.

History is littered with examples where we haven’t got it right; and the British approach to the North Atlantic and the Anti-Submarine threat at the start of the Second World War is a classic example of how to get this nearly very badly wrong.  To buck this,  as but one example, Vice Admiral Liza Franchetti, the Commander of the US 6th Fleet and I  are doing some very interesting analysis into trends and behaviour of the Russian Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Perhaps heeding the advice of The Center of Naval Analysis who speak about ‘the Russians hidden in plain sight’

There is a granular element to this as well;

To understand and be able to act needs the tools to help you do so.

While we are improving in every direction but we still struggle to build a truly comprehensive reliable common operating picture across NATO.  I note that the only two Headquarters in NATO that have a properly set operations room running 24/7 every day of the year are MARCOM and AIRCOM.  We need to concentrate on secure information systems with the ability to digitise and analyse information and intelligence in stride.

We also need an ability to communicate across NATO, between Headquarters of the Alliance and to all our operational units on trustworthy secure data and voice systems.  You would be horrified by how few headquarters have secure NATO data and voice at the heart of their machine and worse how few units have the full, or even a working, secure system at sea.   In my mind this weakness – a very similar challenge with the air and the maritime domain - is the critical issue that NATO and Nations should work on and resource.

And now we must Act?:

All is not doom and gloom, far from it.

I am assuming that the room understands that My HQ is in North London and we have the role of Theatre Maritime Component Commander; Commander of Standing and Allocated Forces; SACEUR’S Maritime Advisor and NATO’s Maritime Advocate.

Let me deal with this part with a couple of illustrated examples:

Most importantly, over the last three years we have revolutionised the way we think and act. My HQ now has one focus – Operations.  This, like an elite sportsman, drives our behaviour and our intent. Every day we command live operations and activity – working with partners and offering Nations deterrence and defence AND … Value for Money.  We work in partnership – MARCOM/AIRCOM, NATO/National, NATO/EU, NATO/Partners, NATO/FRONTEX & Interpol and NATO/Commercial Shipping.  All this from our Maritime Operations Center in North London.

Under SACEUR’s direction we have reviewed structures and roles and the requirements of readiness, credible capability and Command and Control.  As a result MARCOM will grow from 302 to 485 personnel hosted by UK in North London. 

Critically MARCOM’s Command responsibilities have thickened we are now a Theatre Component Commander as well as a Maritime Component Commander.

This responsibility and authority comes with a need to establish concise, simple and consistent command relationships and I am delighted to report that Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti (6th Fleet & SFN), Vice Admiral Woody Lewis (2nd Fleet & JFC Norffolk) and I (alongside some national maritime commanders) are in a hugely energising conversation about how will we command the Atlantic and the maritime JOA.

Underpinning everything we must Think Differently: This is critical. Too long have we been happy in a pot of despondency – the boiling frog syndrome!  No people, No assets, No resources.  Well – we want more of everything but we can do so much more than we are with what we have.  We just need to free this energy. 

So, my recommendation to SACEUR is that it isn’t the form of the Standing Forces that we need to change but how we use it.  We need a Standing Navy that has more programming flexibility, if focussed on Operational Tasking and on high end exercises; but also one that is connected in a proper, non-patronising way with partners and friends.
We can’t do that with a Schedule of Operations agreed by nations two years in advance – believe me!   So I have instigated a revolution – it’s an experiment and it’s called Maritime Express – to sail around the Baltic and North Atlantic engaging with Navy’s and Air Forces around the North Atlantic to gain the most capability out of this free-wheeling interaction.

  At the same time we are proposing to the SHAPE Command Group that we now activate the two big ship Standing Naval Groups as the lead element of the VJTF (in other words, operationalising the VJTF)  so that we have a credible deterrent in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean

Before I get to give you some ideas of goodness let me touch on a couple of issues …. If NATO is really going to realise DSACEUR’s readiness intent, we need agility or freedom of action.

Here, we the maritime component faces a similarly intriguing conundrum as the air component does in the air.  In NATO, nations are very uncertain about the change in posture between Air Policing and Air Deterrence.   Similarly at sea we have the situation that we face a continual battle with filling the Standing Naval Forces with many countries pressing us for more credible and operational programmes; yet in the same debate our cry to be able to free up the schedule of operations so we have true freedom of manoeuvre is blocked by nations, nervous that they are losing control of their precious assets.

To build upon this… we need to practice what we are going to need to do.  I think every HQ in NATO now realises the SAGE remit – NATO’s training bible – has created, a commitment challenge that is going to be all consuming to deliver. 

Perhaps we need reconsider the difference between exercises, where we are majoring on STRATCOM and training opportunities that develop the operational capability of the force.  Let’s go back to working out how we take a war from Article 3 through to Article 5.  That means more workshops and campaign analysis at the Command Level (working from D-20 through to D + 100.  Not from D+190 as we continuously do in Livexes at the moment). 

This is critical for all environments but vital for the maritime and the air – how do we test our readiness and generation, how do we manage hybrid and political uncertainty, how do we do the break in battle – the A2AD write down and how do we protect strategic communications and supply routes.

I’m coming to the end - Let me round this out by giving you some examples of how MARCOM and AIRCOM are working together and in conclusion where I believe this could go:

The first area is in the South around the Operation SEA GUARDIAN, a maritime security operation across the Mediterranean.  Here, with the support of the JFAC and CAOC Torrejon, we reinforce maritime intelligence take with the support of national maritime patrol aircraft, intelligence aircraft and unmanned surveillance patrols.

To build upon this our engagement in the Black Sea, with Romanian based Air Policing aircraft and our Air Defence destroyers has opened up the understanding of airspace in and around the northern Black Sea.

We haven’t got this quite right in the Baltic yet but our Plan around Maritime Express this year will test proof of concept – notably how we will move in and into the Baltic in a crisis, including how we will work with the new German Maritime Operations Center and Polish and Partner capability.  This will feed into enhanced Forward Presence and I hope support JFC Brunssum’s efforts building their posture and deterrence map.

Finally, various surveillance missions against Russian submarine and surface warfare units has demonstrated how, with Ramstein and CAOC Uedem and Torrejon , we can mount a very sophisticated and three dimensional surveillance operations.  With our missions against the Russian Aircraft Carrier KUTZNETZOV, however questionable her offensive capability, the most visible example of our work.

So to close, its been a busy old three years.  Our competitors are out there – and they are modernising on every axis.  Our response is centered on building the correct C2 and the understanding to move forward; every environment a critical cog in a joint endeavour.

What I can do is tell you that the maritime and air are moving forward very comfortably together.

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