NRF 5 : The French Air Force in control

Portrait de Joël-François DUMONT

Source: French Air Force ─ Paris, January, 1rst, 2006.

NRF 5 : The French Air Force in control

Source: French Air Force ─ Paris, January, 1rst, 2006. 

Since 1 July 2005 and for six months onwards, the French air force will be one of the main force provider of the NATO Response Force or NRF 5 air component. Together with the Royal Air Force, it will provide a majority of assets and fulfil its command and control functions through C2 structures. Relying on resources thoroughly interoperable with all the NRF engaged air assets, the air force will permit France to be the framework nation conducting new operations, in an approach fully compatible with its European Union commitments.

Established at the Prague Summit in November 2002, as a result of NATO transformation, the NRF which encompasses 20 000 personnel, will provide a rapid, combined, joint and tailored response to the threats of the 21st century (terrorism, humanitarian crisis, threats to civilian non combatants). This capability may also be the initial entry force of a larger follow-up force called HRF (High Readiness Force) at corps level (namely 100 000 personnel). 

If the NRF is deployed, it will be under the command of a French officer general at the head of almost 180 aircraft and 6000 personnel from various NATO countries. The air component will build up at a five to fifteen days notice.

Based on a three-year alert cycle, the NRF has three joint command structures, each charged with the implementation, combat readiness and potential commitment of the force, on rotation. These headquarters are located in Brunssum (Netherlands), Naples and Lisbon.

Regarding NRF 5, it is Lisbon headquarters, also called JC Lisbon and based in Portugal, which will command the in-theatre joint operations in case of commitment. While coordinating the implementation of land, maritime, air and special forces, this headquarters has been working in close collaboration with the French airmen since the preparation phase of the NRF 5 alert, which started on 1 January 2005. The incorporation of French officers into JC Lisbon establishes an effective interface between our country and other allied nations.

  • The Franco-British partnership

France and Great Britain are the main participants of NRF 5 and share balanced responsibilities. The command of this force component will be French and British on rotation. NRF 5 will be under French command.

The Franco-British partnership represents a contribution of almost 80% of the air command and control personnel (JFACC) and 40% of the air assets; the other NATO countries supplying the remaining resources. We must emphasize the excellent team spirit which binds together the two air forces, generates a remarkable synergy of action and a high efficiency in the theatre of operation.

  • The French air force "savoir-faire"

Concerning the national mission, the implementation of the NRF 5 command and control structure is the responsibility of the Air Defence and Air Operations Command (CDAOA). The other FAF commands participate in the manning of this structure (the air combat command, the air mobility command, the CIS command...). The French structure, which is quite close to the NATO and British organizations, is founded on a doctrine and national procedures which are fully interoperable with our allies'. All foreign officers can therefore easily adapt to the structure while maintaining their initial work routine.

Interoperability is a major challenge to the FAF, in particular regarding CIS integration (Communication and Information Systems) into the Alliance networks. Exercise Allied Action 05 (17 May-2 June 2005), which was the final certification phase for our NRF structures, demonstrated the efficiency and interoperability of the French air staff-developed CIS. A cutting edge and highly efficient gateway (Interface Exchange Gateway IEG) was specifically designed to connect the secured French network to the NATO secret network. The results were optimum and will allow promoting a better integration of national networks into the Alliance's. 

Finally and this is a first, the FAF has committed itself on behalf of NATO to provide two out of the three deployable air bases (DOBs) in case of real operation, the Royal Air Force providing the third one. Up to now, no nation had ever volunteered to provide such a capability which is vital to the support of the operational units deployed in the theatre. Their projection has been prepared in detail; the equipment in mainland France has been identified and located, is ready to be collected, pre-forwarded and deployed in accordance with the operational requirement phasing.

We must also underline the significant work accomplished by the French air force staff concerning the deployment of equipment (tents, air conditioning systems, water supply systems, generators...) to satisfy mobility requirements at national or European level.

  • A certified capability

It is through exercises such as Opera 2003, Eolo 2004, Airex 2005, and eventually Allied Action 05, that the French air force has honed its deployment and air component leadership capabilities. Its competences have been acknowledged by the Alliance through the certification of NRF and HRF levels. The FAF is able to command and control an air component, to prepare its rapid deployment and to support it.

This dual certification demonstrates the operational capability that the French air force can provide both to NATO and to the European Union or to any other interregional organization under official international mandate.

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