Whither the Leading Expeditionary Western Air Powers in the Twenty-First Century?
The United Kingdom has enjoyed a “special relationship” with the United States for more than six decades and close ties with its European neighbor France for even longer. Under their treaty on defense and security cooperation of 2010 and as the two leading expeditionary European air forces, the Royal Air Force and the French Armée de l’air are working ever closer together. Meanwhile, as the United States seeks to refocus its defense posture towards the Pacific, through an initiative coherent with NATO’s principles of “smart defense,” the chiefs of these three air forces are seeking to enhance their operational effectiveness through closer collaboration. In this article, Group Capt Tim Below of the Royal Air Force examines the confluence of global geopolitical events of the last few years, which are engendering a fast-deepening interrelationship among these three air forces. He concludes that, as demonstrated over Libya in 2011, although challenges remain and although still dependent on the United States to provide mass in certain enabling areas, the United Kingdom and France are increasingly ready to take on the leadership of European security in the air domain.