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Threats to Western freedom of access to the air domain include, but are not limited to, advanced integrated air defence systems, adversary fifth-generation combat air systems and advanced precision strike capabilities which threaten airbases and maintenance hubs.
Meanwhile, most NATO land- and maritime-domain forces remain heavily dependent on overhead ISTAR and responsive air-delivered firepower for survivability and lethality in a high-intensity context. There is, therefore, a collective defence imperative for NATO air forces to maintain or in some cases regain credible warfighting capabilities against modern state-based threats. Yet striking the correct balance between investments in modernisation of existing fleets and weapons systems, developing the next generation of combat air platforms and improving operational resilience, readiness and redundancy is a critical challenge.
In the UK, the Future Combat Air Strategy includes work on the Tempest Programme alongside the modernisation of the Typhoon force, growing the F-35B Lightning II force, a return to dispersed fast jet exercises and many other elements. However, continued pressure on capital investment and operating costs will force hard trade-offs to be made.
Italy and Sweden are both working alongside the UK on future combat air technologies but have their own unique operational and political drivers. They face a similar balancing act. Elsewhere in Europe, France, Germany and Spain continue to refine the concepts and industrial agreements required for the SCAF/FCAS next-generation combat air system, while also modernising their respective Rafale and Eurofighter fleets and re-orientating their geopolitical stances towards Russia and other strategic challenges.
For smaller states, the dilemmas posed by modernisation and resilience requirements are perhaps even more stark. Poland, Norway and Finland all provide examples of different approaches being taken to find the correct balance as they transition to a new generation of combat aircraft.
In Washington, retaining military overmatch against Chinese forces in the Indo-Pacific imposes a totally different scale of challenge. Across the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marine Corps, a range of major acquisition programmes such as NGAD, B-21 Raider, F/A-XX and Skyborg are competing with F-35 procurement and legacy fleet modernisation imperatives.
Our conference will draw on presentations and debates between experts, capability planners and stakeholders across the NATO alliance and partner countries to address these critical questions.
Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please contact Justin Bronk: email@example.com
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