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Is NATO obsolete?

Posted by Tom Sullivan on

Seeing-off the 'Sov's'

A phrase coined in the dark days of the Cold War by aircrews tasked with a interdiction role. It refers to a service relevant today as it was back in the 1960s and 70s. A QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) jet is launched if an approaching aircraft enters NATO or our national airspace without prior approval or having not identified itself. This form of defence harks back to the Battle of Britain when fighters were scrambled to intercept German Bomber raids. In recent years there have been multiple NATO intercepts of Russian TU95 Bear H Bombers, SU27 Flanker, MiG31 Foxhound, SU35 Fullback and SU24 jets by the joint air forces of NATO including the Typhoon Air Defence squadrons based in the United Kingdom. The following link makes interesting reading http://bit.ly/2k17EfoQRAalerts

Tarmac to 30,000ft in 30 seconds

The Typhoon is the main type used by the Royal Air Force for the QRA role. Armed with ASRAAM and AIM120 air to air missiles, the fighter is guided by civilian NATS Holdings and the military ASACS with radar heads around the coastline of the UK. This aircraft has phenomenal capabilities that make it perfect for the job of getting to a target at supersonic speed.

Ben Farmer, Defence Correspondent for the Telegraph wrote a revealing article about the QRA Typhoons of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Coningsby. It's supported by a video shot by Chris Stone and Charlotte Krol. http://bit.ly/2ku7HkURAFTyphoons. As well as intercepting probing Russian reconnaissance aircraft, the RAF is expected to combat an ever-present terrorist threat. In October 2016 RAF Lossiemouth scrambled Typhoons to escort a Volaris Airline Airbus A320 that was on its way to Iceland that had a loss of communication which raised an alarm with NATs. The airliner was diverted to Prestwick and communications were re-established without further incident. This highlighted the continuing need for our air defences and maintenance of the North Atlantic Treaty

September 11th 2001

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations quoted, "When NATO’s founding members signed the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949, they declared themselves “resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security.”The greatest threat to these objectives was a military attack by a hostile power—a prospect that led to the treaty’s most famous provision, Article V, which states, “The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”

On September 12th 2001 Article V was invoked for the first time in its history so the role of the RAF QRA became more of a vital part of the 'collective' defence. The work of NATO since the atrocities of September 11th has ramped up with the Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) that includes the monitoring of all allied airspace against the terror threat in the air. The members of NATO pool resources to develop technologies to combat against 'non-conventional' attacks including hijacked airliners. In 2010 The Future of NATO was published by the Council on Foreign Relation Press, authored by James M. Goldgeier. It provides practical analysis and recommendations to policy makers amongst member states. Perhaps once briefed in more detail, the incoming President Trump may reconsider his view that 'NATO is obsolete'.

Sleep safe in our beds

As you read this article there are men and women sitting in their 'Q-sheds', g suited with an armed aircraft prepared to take to the air and potentially shoot down a hijacked airliner full of passengers inbound to London. A sobering thought! Personally I rest easier knowing that there is a sophisticated defence system in place with the best trained pilots in the world, the most potent weapon technology at their disposal and a treaty between our geographical neighbours that provides a collective defence. Long may it remain so.


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