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© 2007, Ministerie van Defensie | Laatste publicatie 29 september 2007


Air Power Symposium in The Hague
Spreker: Minister H.G.J. Kamp

Opening address by the Netherlands Minister of Defence, Henk Kamp, at the Air Power Symposium in The Hague, 19 November 2003

Excellencies, generals, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all I would like to congratulate the Royal Netherlands Air Force on its fiftieth anniversary as a separate Service of the Dutch armed forces. It is moreover ninety years ago that its earliest predecessor the Military Aircraft Division was established with only one leased aircraft.

The Dutch air force has come a long way since then. It certainly can be proud of its history. Its F-16s recently have performed outstandingly in the skies over Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Early this year, its Patriot systems provided safety to Turkish citizens against the possibility of missile attacks from Iraq. As we speak, its transport helicopters are taking part in the stabilisation forces inside Iraq and Bosnia. Its strategic air transport assets provide a lifeline to our troops in the field. The Tactical Helicopter Group is an indispensable element of the Air Manoeuvre Brigade, which reached operational readiness last month in Poland.

In short: the Dutch air force has shown itself to be a highly professional and motivated fighting force. It is recognised internationally as a member of the A-team of air forces. It is a highly valuable asset to our government. And it has earned my admiration and my confidence as Minister of Defence.

This year we are also celebrating the hundredth anniversary of aviation. One century ago, the Wright brothers completed the first successful sustained motorised flight in history near the Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. Since then, air power has emerged as one key element changing the nature of war in the twentieth century. Other key elements were the advent of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and of long range missiles. The twenty-first century will undoubtedly confront us with new and unexpected changes.

I am therefore glad to be able to introduce the topic of todays symposium: The transformation of war. 

This location the Hall of Knights (de Ridderzaal) is a particularly appropriate place for such a discussion. It derives its name from a word that conjures up men on horseback. This type of warfare may seem outdated. But some of us know better. They will remember that American forces recently have been active on horseback in pursuit of Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. I am, of course, hinting at the presence in our midst of General Tommy Franks, who will deliver the keynote address later today.

The presence of General Franks today is also remarkable for a different reason. In Texas they say: Never ask a man where hes from. If hes from Texas hell tell you; if he isnt, you dont want to embarrass him. It is important to note that General Franks is not only from Texas, but that he is from the Army. Given his experience as an army officer and his recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am certain he will be able to educate us on the role of air power. I congratulate him on his outstanding military career and bid him a particularly warm welcome to the Netherlands.

I will not be able to match the military expertise of General Franks or any of the other speakers today. I will therefore introduce the topic as a politician and Minister of Defence in terms that I am familiar with.

I will first make a few remarks on the transformation of war as I see it and on the role of air power in that transformation. Then I would like to say a few things about how we are taking these developments into account in our defence plans and, more specifically, how this will affect our air force.

The transformation of war
The transformation of war cannot be considered in isolation. It is first of all a response to changes in our political and security environment.

Any overview should begin by noting that, in one important respect, the international security situation has significantly improved since the end of the Cold War. We no longer need to prepare ourselves for a large-scale conventional attack on NATO territory. Our relationship with Russia our former enemy has developed positively. Within NATO, for instance, we now have regular meetings with the Russian Minister of Defence. The expansion of NATO and of the EU will help to steady the positive changes in Europe. On the other side of the globe, China is becoming increasingly integrated into the world community.

At the same time, however, there continues to be chronic instability in many parts of the world. In Europe, the stabilisation of the Balkans is not yet complete, and unresolved conflicts in Moldova and in the Caucasus continue to give cause for concern. Outside Europe, the situation in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and parts of Asia and Africa are troubling to say the least. Particularly in Africa, the restoration of peace and stability is moreover an essential pre-condition for sustainable development. In addition, we are increasingly concerned with the ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, such as long-range ballistic missiles. The rise of international terrorism is similarly alarming. Terrorists must be considered capable of acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction.

In the post-Cold War era, international relations are being increasingly defined by these new threats. It has become increasingly clear that the security and well being of our open societies are influenced by conditions far away. Our internal security is to an important extent a function of our external security. The terrorist attacks in the United States of September 11, 2001, obviously come to mind. But political instability and poor economic and social conditions in far-flung corners of the world have serious repercussions for Europe and the Netherlands as well. The threat does not only concern the United States. Apart from terrorism, one can think of mass migration and of the criminal trade in drugs and humans.

This is why I continue to press the argument that the deployment of the Dutch military elsewhere in the world is not only important for promoting the international rule of law or protecting human rights. It is also an important part of our core mission to protect the daily lives of our citizens at home. Any successful long-term security policy requires the willingness to respond early to crises elsewhere in the world, if necessary with military means.

These developments obviously affect the way in which we employ our military means. They place demands on our armed forces different from those during the Cold War. The advance of technology furthermore has opened up new possibilities to achieve our objectives more effectively. Let me touch upon the most important aspects in the transformation of war as I see them.

It is, first of all, obvious that the focus in military operations has increasingly shifted to supporting and influencing operations on land and the ability to engage targets on land. This obviously has implications for our air forces. They will have to focus less on the ability to win the massive air battles that were envisaged during the Cold War. At the same time, just like our navies, they will need to enhance their capabilities for projecting power on land. Both air and maritime assets are likely to continue to play a crucial role in this respect. They also contribute in other ways, such as with strategic transport and by maintaining and protecting supply lines.

Secondly, our armed forces, including the air forces, will have to become more expeditionary. They will need to be largely self-supporting in the area of logistics and carry out military operations at a relatively great distance from their home base. We are on the right track, but we are not there yet. NATO Secretary General Robertson has rightly called our attention to the fact that military effectiveness is not determined by the number of main weapon systems one has at ones disposal, but by the ability to deploy these weapons effectively over long distances. This calls for a shift in investments from main weapon systems to capabilities that make their effective use possible.

Army, air force and navy will also need to increasingly operate jointly, merging their capabilities to achieve the optimal result. Recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown the potential when army, air and navy unleash their capabilities in unison. The importance of that joint approach is also reflected within the NATO Response Force.

In the same vein, our armed forces need to be capable of effectively operating together with the armed forces of other countries even in the most challenging scenarios. This is particularly the case for the armed forces of smaller countries. Their involvement in these scenarios will more often than not consist of partaking in international operations. Air forces hold a traditional advantage in this area. Ever since the build-up of the military organisation of NATO in the 1950s, the command and control over the air forces has been the most integrated of all. They have experience in co-operating during operations as well.

The air forces of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, for instance, participated together in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Together with the air forces of Belgium and Portugal they have taken the lead in exploring new methods of co-operation by establishing a multinational Expeditionary Air Wing as part of the European Participating Airforces (EPAF). The European air forces have already established a European Airlift Co-ordination Cell, which will be strengthened further. Our Patriot units can be deployed together with those of the United States and Germany as part of the Extended Air Defence Task Force.

The need to become more expeditionary places higher demands on the flexibility of our armed forces. The terrain, the composition of the coalition and of our own contribution, the opponents and the objectives will be different for every operation. The distinction between combatants and non-combatants will be less clear, and the opponents preference for asymmetric responses must also be taken into account.

Thirdly, the ability to achieve well-defined effects with increasing precision has also become increasingly important. Our armed forces are expected to achieve their missions within a short timeframe. The pace of operations will increase further. At the same time, casualties among civilians and ones own troops must be avoided. We are no longer looking for the biggest bang for the buck. On the contrary, we want the desired effect with the minimum of collateral damage. This is not just a matter of politics, but also one of morality. We should never forget the inhuman face of war.

There are, last but not least, also more or less autonomous technological developments that transform military operations as well as the threats we are facing. Just like the arrival of aviation in the early twentieth century, they will affect the way we conduct military operations.

Probably the most important of these changes concerns the revolution in information and communication technology. The increasing availability of technologically advanced weapon, sensor, information and command-and-control systems has significant implications for military operations. Operating within a network requires a high level of interoperability of weapons and the associated systems. Air forces are well placed to lead in this development, since they traditionally have been in the technological forefront.

Over time, new weapons such as directed energy weapons (such as laser weapons) and non-lethal weapons will become available. Technological developments will also lead to a larger number of unmanned and semi-autonomous applications for certain military tasks.

The advance and spread of technology will also confront us with new threats. The growing capabilities of certain countries and organisations to produce weapons of mass destruction are a case in point.

Defence reform in The Netherlands
Let me now say a few words about how we have taken these changes into account in reforming the Dutch armed forces. For I have initiated a programme of far-reaching defence reform to respond to these and other developments. This programme has now also been discussed with and recently received the support of our Parliament.

In general terms, this programme is designed to achieve a new balance between the military missions that our armed forces should be able to execute and the resources and capabilities currently available. In this new balance, the quality of our military effort has been considered at least as important as its quantity.

But the programme also takes account of the transformation of war and reflects a firm belief that our defence efforts are to be judged primarily in an international context. We depend heavily on constructive international relations and properly functioning security institutions. NATO and, to a lesser extent, the EU provide the main institutional frameworks for defence co-operation. Our plans have taken this clearly into account. They have taken into account in particular the capability shortfalls and surpluses identified in the most recent Defence Requirements Review (DRR), NATOs biannual military requirement. The DRR has underscored the following trends:

- for the coming planning period (2005-2010), a part of the military arsenal of the Alliance can be reduced. For the foreseeable future, the collective defence of NATO territory will involve regional crises on the periphery of NATO territory and farther away;
- at the same time, NATO insists on improvements in the usability of the armed forces. It gives clear priority to quality above quantity. The DRR emphasises the importance of modern, combat-ready and mobile military units. The number of units on paper is not what counts, but rather the number of deployable units that can be fully committed at very short notice and with sufficient support.

Many of the measures I have announced are founded on these basic guidelines. For reasons of both national and international efficiency, we have sought to build on the present capabilities of our armed forces as well as those that are in short supply within NATO. Capabilities that NATO already has in abundance have been critically reviewed. This has led in some cases to drastic measures, such as the divestment of the considerable reserve component of the army and of our maritime patrol aircraft. The international security situation simply provides insufficient justification for maintaining these capabilities.

Reducing the size of the armed forces is clearly necessary to create sufficient room for investments and to ensure the quality of our military contribution into the future. Savings have been sought in particular by closing down infrastructure that is no longer needed. In addition, the staffs of the armed services are being fully integrated, thus reducing overhead costs while promoting a joint approach to our military effort. Measures such as these will allow for an increase of the investment percentage to around 21 per cent. This, in turn, will guarantee the continued existence of a highly capable and modern Dutch military in the future, which can continue to act side-by-side with our most important allies in a wide range of operations. It will also enable us to respond effectively to the initiatives launched in NATO and the EU aimed at modernising our armed forces.

Implications for our air force
Our air force is, of course deeply involved in this transformation.

The number of F-16 fighter aircraft will be reduced from 137 to 108 and will be redistributed over two bases; one base will be closed down. This will result in lower costs for overhead and for maintaining infrastructure and enable us to invest in the operational effectiveness of the remaining aircraft. They have recently already undergone an extensive midlife update. Interoperability and command-and-control are being further improved with the introduction of advanced data systems (Link 16). These systems will better enable the crew to operate in a network centric environment. More effective air-to-ground precision weapons, such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), are also being procured. Precision weapons with a much greater range will be introduced from 2007 onwards. In addition, the deployment options of our two D-10 tanker aircraft will be enhanced by the procurement of one DC-10 aircraft. In 2007, the Dutch government will furthermore decide on the replacement of the F-16 aircraft.

In other areas, too, the air force will continue to provide important capabilities in the future. Together with France, it is developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance and laser-designation at medium altitudes, for which there is a great need. The number of its Apache attack helicopters will be reduced from 30 to 24, but their operational effectiveness will be significantly enhanced through various programmes. The usability of its transport helicopters will also be further improved. Our Patriot air defence systems, finally, will be improved by the procurement of PAC-3 launch installations, missiles and communications systems. They will thus provide an increasingly effective long-distance air defence against tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

In other words, the Dutch air force is well positioned to retain its rank among the most professional and advanced within NATO. It will, for instance, be able to provide a highly capable contribution to NATOs Response Force. I repeat: the Dutch Air Force has earned my admiration and confidence as Minister of Defence.

Closing remarks

Excellencies, generals, ladies and gentlemen,

The transformation of war is a complex matter. What is the purpose of all of this transformation? Is there a purpose? I do not hesitate to respond that the transformation of war ultimately should result in the end of war. The goal of genuine peace and stability in every corner of the world may seem unattainable for the present generation. But is a goal worth striving for. It is the motivating force behind our efforts today.

Paradoxically, our military is an indispensable tool towards that end. Former American president Dwight Eisenhower once said: We are going to have peace, even if we have to fight for it. As Minister of Defence, I could not agree more. I am convinced that air power will continue to be an important tool as well.

As we are pursuing this goal, we owe a great deal to our military. They put their lives at risk for our safety and freedom. There is no such thing as getting used to combat. It imposes a great strain on those who are involved as well as on those who are left at home. Our present experience in Iraq reminds us of this elemental truth almost daily. I will therefore do more than wish you a fruitful discussion in this comfortable setting on the transformation of war. I end by thanking you for being a soldier.

Thank you.

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