The US and its NATO allies in Europe are re-examining concepts, such as hardening, dispersal of airfields and bases, and new rapid deployment methods, to increase survivability in light of Russia’s recent aggression in the East, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa boss Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday. Operation Atlantic Resolve has provided valuable insight into conducting operations from locations where infrastructure may not be as built-up as main operating bases, said Gorenc during ASC15. “Airfields are our platforms. And they have to have certain things on those airfields that would allow for high-volume combat operations,” he said. One of the “great unintended consequences” of Russian aggression in Ukraine is renewed focus on many of these fields across NATO’s eastern member states, said Gorenc. Many of these improvements are being funded through the European Reassurance Initiative, he added, noting that eastern European countries want to ensure operations can be conducted in the event of hostilities. In addition, the command is working on a concept to “allow for more survivability” and flexibility in small deployments—an initiative called “Rapid X,” which involves moving aircraft for short visits to unimproved airfields, then using mobility assets to move support elements “just at the right time” to expand operating locations and complicate an adversary’s targeting. “It’s pretty clear we are going to have to go back and start exercising some of the things we used to do in the Cold War,” Gorenc said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.