The Rapid Air Mobility concept is an agreement between NATO, EUROCONTROL and all member nations that, once activated, significantly reduces the times for requesting or acquiring diplomatic flight clearances. Before a flight is conducted from one country to another, respective flight plans must be submitted to EUROCONTROL, the organization for the central coordination of air traffic in Europe. These plans include the necessary applications for permission to overfly any countries along the flight route, the diplomatic flight clearances. Under usual circumstances this application process can take up to 21 days. The activation of the Rapid Air Mobility procedure significantly reduces this time to less than 72 hours, allowing supplies and equipment needed in the fight against COVID-19 to be transported much faster between Allied countries. In addition to faster diplomatic clearances for flight plans, aircraft flying under a dedicated Rapid Air Mobility callsign can also receive preferential routing and prioritized handling by EUROCONTROL.
Part of our job is to ‘grease the wheels’ by helping nations to better understand how the concept can enhance their ability to utilize the capability
To help facilitate a smooth utilization by all stakeholders, Allied Air Command stood up a team of subject matter experts as part of its COVID-19 response cell. This provides remote support to the COVID-19 task force based at NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, as well as assisting Alliance member nations.
LMedical supplies are offloaded from a plane in Poland. Archive photo by NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
Tasked to conduct NATO’s standing peacetime Air Policing mission, Allied Air Command’s experts liaise with EUROCONTROL on a regular basis and can thus function as an enabling element between the task force and the civilian air traffic control agency. Moreover, air specific logistical expertise is on call to support Allied Command Operations’ Mobility Coordination Centre. Allied Air Command experts are also available to facilitate NATO member nations’ Air Forces application of the Rapid Air Mobility concept.
“Part of our job is to ‘grease the wheels’ by helping nations to better understand how the concept can enhance their ability to utilize the capability or exploit the flexibility that Rapid Air Mobility brings in their response to the COVID-19 crisis in Europe” explains Wing Commander Seamus McGowan, part of Allied Air Command’s COVID-19 response cell.
Intensive Care Units are loaded into a transport aircraft. Archive photo by NATO Support and Procurement Agency.
The Rapid Air Mobility concept was established in 2018 to enhance NATO’s capability to deploy and respond to a range of crises. Activating the system of simplified procedures was approved for the first time by the North Atlantic Council on April 2, 2020. As the COVID-19 crisis persists, Alliance members have been demonstrating their solidarity by rapidly delivering much needed supplies and equipment wherever they are needed the most. Next to the many bilateral demonstrations of solidarity amongst Allies the activation of the Rapid Air Mobility procedure is an immediate contribution of NATO to the Allies’ fight against the pandemic as it significantly enhances and supports them in their common effort. It showcases that NATO is well prepared to respond to any crisis and that NATO stands with all its members at any time.