NATO JAPCC and the UAV overview
Lt. Col. Frank Weisskirchen is a Subject Matter Expert for Nato’s Joint Air Power Competence Centre (JAPCC). He joins us to discuss the office’s recent work involving unmanned air systems, and will be speaking at the 2010 UCAV conference on Day One.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - NATO JAPCC and the UAV overview
Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles 2010: Lt. Col. Frank Weisskirchen
Lt. Col. Frank Weisskirchen is a Subject Matter Expert for Nato’s Joint Air Power
Competence Centre (JAPCC). He joins us to discuss the office’s recent work involving
unmanned air systems, and will be speaking at the 2010 UCAV conference on Day One.
Defence IQ: Sir, I’m going to start by asking you to just tell us about the role of JAPCC –
essentially what its mission is, and how it operates.
Weisskirchen: Air and space power expertise is spread across the NATO Command Structure without
the required degree of organisational integration or collaboration.
As a result there is no central, strategic-level proponent of Combined and Joint Air and Space Power
in the NATO Command Structure. Therefore JAPCC was founded in 2005 as a MOU-based “Centre
of Excellence” (COE), supported by, as of today, 17 NATO nations to fill that gap.
The JAPCC provides the Air and Space Power expertise and advocacy to the NATO community, with
ACT as our primary customer to whom we maintain a close relationship through the Transformation
Network Coordination Cell (TNCC). They coordinate the program of work between NATO COEs.
However, we are not aligned directly under ACT. We are an independent research organization and
we work with ACO and other NATO organizations as needed to advocate for Combined and Joint Air
and Space power.
Defence IQ: I believe the centre released a research and recommendation paper this year
regarding the use of unmanned air systems. Could you explain to us how this work was
collated and, I suppose, what the key elements are in terms of the recommended approach to
future UAS strategy – in broad terms?
Weisskirchen: The “Strategic concept of employment for Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NATO” is a
result of an intensive research conducted by the JAPCC throughout the entire UAS community with
significant contribution by the United States Joint UAS Centre of Excellence as well as NATO’s Joint
It describes a capabilities-based approach to UAS employment, which enhances the joint and
coalition operator’s ability to execute assigned missions and tasks. This document recommends
NATO guidance, considerations, and concepts for optimum UAS employment across the full spectrum
of military operations. It is intended for use by NATO nations and coalition forces in preparing their
operational and program plans, in support of service, joint, and coalition doctrine, and assist in
CONOPS development. This publication does not restrict the authority of the Joint Force Commander
(JFC) from organizing forces and executing the mission in the most appropriate manner.
Defence IQ: What operational scenarios, including joint scenarios, have been determined as
potential deployment situations for NATO unmanned air systems?
Weisskirchen: The CONEMP comprises mainly two operational scenarios, namely Article 5 and Non-
Article 5 scenarios plus several Joint Mission Vignettes which may not be determined only for UAS
but for any capability serving NATO’s and nations’ intention. The Non-Article 5 Mission Vignettes
cover scenarios such as Counter-Terrorism, Expeditionary Operations and Counter Piracy, just to
name a few.
Defence IQ: Let’s discuss some ongoing developments. What is the current status of
integrating manned and unmanned systems – and what was JAPCC’s reading of the potential
in that set-up?
Weisskirchen: Manned systems can leverage UAS capabilities, and vice versa. Efforts are underway
to allow for manned aircraft to control one or more UA. This collaboration may allow increased
situational awareness and extended sensor coverage over an area. Manned aircraft may have the
capability to control armed UA. MUM teaming may also include integration of UAS with unmanned
ground vehicles (UGV), unmanned surface vehicles (USV), unmanned sea surface vehicles (USSV),
and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV).
Defence IQ: How about Interoperability, in terms of data transmission across networks, and so
on. I understand that current UASs don’t meet certain advanced LOIs. What are the plans or
recommendations in developing to these levels?
Weisskirchen: In fact, UAS predominantly do not reach the higher levels of Interoperability at the
moment. From a JAPCC perspective, taking ongoing research projects into account, we only expect a
mid- to long term solution to that problem.
Defence IQ: You’ll obviously be focusing more on combat vehicles at the conference than just
standard unmanned systems. How great of a difference is there between the two in terms of
things such as operational training, reliability in close air support, evasive maneuverability,
and so on? Is it essentially the same, or are we talking “apples and oranges”?
Weisskirchen: Basically, UCAVs are part of the UAV Family of Systems and are therefore integrated
in the existing document. However, since UCAVs are becoming more prominent, JAPCC recognizes
the potential need for an own CONEMP for UCAVs/Armed UAVs. That is being worked on.
Defence IQ: Do you anticipate that the research and recommendations undertaken by the
JAPCC will need to be updated in the near future? What projects are the centre focusing on in
Weisskirchen: Although the CONEP has not been written for eternity, this document should last for
quite a while and could, once endorsed by ACT, be the basis for a Chapter 7 (UAV) in the AJP 3.3.
Other leading products produced by the JAPCC include, for example, the UAV Flight Plan for NATO
that has been updated in the past and will be in the future.
Regarding future products, especially UAV/UCAV related, we will take a closer look at terms like
“Fast, Small and Stealthy”, “Hunting in Packs”, “Weapons Dispenser” and “Non-traditionally deployed
UAS”, the latter dealing with, for example, launch from space, by ICBM, submarine deployed, or from
a manned mothership.
You can read the full research paper at http://www.japcc.de/nato_flightplan_uas.html
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