CAF enhances air interoperability with partners and allies

Two men shake hands next to a podium.
Brigadier General Michael Rafter, Director General Support/Strategic J4 from Strategic Joint Staff (right), was in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to sign the ATARES agreement with Colonel Franck Verdierre of the French Air Force, Director of the Movement Coordinator Centre Europe. Photo Credit: LCol Robert Bailey, SJS

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Canada recently became the 26th member of a multinational air services agreement that includes North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and European Union (EU) countries.

In December, Canada signed the Air Transport and Air-to-Air Refuelling and other Exchange of Services (ATARES) arrangement, which provides a multinational framework to exchange services in the realm of air force activities. It is managed by the Movement Coordination Centre Europe (MCCE), based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

The MCCE was established in 2007 through a technical arrangement between nations who had begun to work together to coordinate strategic lift capacity and assets. While participants include NATO and EU members, the MCCE has no command and control of the assets it coordinates. It provides the best support possible based on each nation’s ability to share their capabilities and capacity.

As outlined in Strong, Secure, Engaged, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) must increase interoperability with its key partners and core allies to continue to meet Canada’s defence needs. ATARES is a prime opportunity to develop this interoperability. While the RCAF is an enabler for the Canadian Armed Forces global expeditionary operations, ATARES enhances this capacity, allowing for additional surveillance and reconnaissance, air mobility and air-to-air refuelling. The Canadian presence also allows Canada to aid other ATARES partners when they need assistance.

ATARES is a clear demonstration of 26 participating nations coming together to leverage each other’s assets and capabilities for the common good. The system works on an exchange of credits. This enables nations to leverage spare capacity on current missions to gain access to future capacity from their partners and allies.

Canada intends to first explore the use of air transport capabilities as an entry point into the arrangement. Participation is entirely voluntary; capability is offered up when it is available, and used when a demand can be matched to a providing nation. The Strategic Joint Staff (SJS), RCAF and Central Joint Operations Command (CJOC) are working closely together to begin participation as soon as possible.

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