NATO air forces are continuing to focus on how they can integrate fourth and fifth generation aircraft, from multiple countries, to ensure they can fight together as an alliance or coalition. NATO countries have been forced to “scrutinize each and every step we take with each and every ally” to make sure fourth and fif?th generation aircraft are able to fly together, Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, said at ASC16. The ability for countries to exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures remains a “large challenge” that is being addressed, he said. Some countries are working on this integration already with the new F-35. Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, said he has F-35s flying alongside Dutch F-16s and aircraft from the US, United Kingdom, and Australia at Edwards AFB, Calif., and they have already learned “invaluable lessons” on how the aircraft can work together. These aircraft are also flying with private “red air” in exercises as well, he said. NATO air forces need to be prepared to fly against near-peer and peer-level adversaries at a time when “our numbers are doomed to be limited” in international budgets, said Maj. Gen. Max Nielsen, the chief of the Royal Danish Air Force. “We need to be able to fly, fight, and win together,” he said. “As an alliance or as a coalition.”
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.