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NATO seeks to optimise SOF airframes to match peer adversaries

Croatian ‘Hip'-series helicopters at the NATO Multinational SOF Aviation Centre in Zadar, Croatia. (Croatian MoD)

NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) is considering how to best optimise their aviation capabilities as attention shifts from counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency campaigns to operations against peer adversaries.

Addressing the Global SOF Europe Symposium in Budapest, Hungary, on 6 October, Lieutenant Colonel René Van Riet, Royal Netherlands Air Force, NATO SOF Headquarters Air Development Programme (ADP), said SOF aviation capabilities across the alliance were not as well developed as land capabilities are.

“No, we don't have enough aviation assets,” he said. “ADP has already existed for 10 years, and we're still at the beginning of building that capability within all the countries,” he added, describing how the ADP continued to encourage NATO members to learn from partner forces operating mature Special Operations Air Task Units.

“So, not only learning what they're doing, but also selling what your experience is when you come from a country that already is doing some aviation. And there are more countries that actually can do that,” Lt Col Van Riet said, adding, “Unfortunately, not all of them have enough personnel to share that experience, but generally speaking, I would say [we need] more exchanges, more co-operation, and more training and sharing of information to then take the next step to get enough SOF aviation assets.”

Also speaking at the event was Brigadier General Philip J Ryan, commanding general of the US Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC), which retains operational control of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR). Brig Gen Ryan described how his command was pivoting towards potential large-scale combat operations against peer adversaries.

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