Building Partnership Capacity:
Operation Harmattan and Beyond
Across the Department of Defense, the military services are seeking dynamic partnerships as emphasis shifts from the US military’s performing tasks to building partner capacities. At the same time, France and Britain have national ambitions that are driving deeper ties with each other and with the United States. Against this backdrop, the chiefs of staff of the Armée de l’air (French air force), the Royal Air Force, and the US Air Force developed a vision to better integrate the three air forces—an opportunity not seen since the end of the Second World War. Three catalysts—France’s full return to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Franco-British Defense Treaty, and decreasing budgets—have spurred this effort. The military action in Libya, code-named Operation Harmattan by the French, validated this initiative and marked a 20-year transformation of the French air force into a modern, full-spectrum, first-entry force. As was the case after the Second World War, airmen can capitalize on the close collaboration during the conflict to further their partnership. Although the operation’s success stands as a tremendous testament to airpower’s strategic impact, “success hides problems.” Therefore, airmen from the three air forces must continue to engage at the strategic level to overcome obstacles to integration, particularly in the area of information sharing and the coherence of command and control.