The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century saw a significant change in the security environment in Europe: The Warsaw Pact collapsed and former WP member states be-came members of NATO. In parallel, we witnessed a tendency towards renationalisation of air policing and air defence. Command and Control, however, continued to be executed at integrated and multinational Combined Air Operations Centres, albeit more or less only for a single national airspace. In the former Central Region, the CAOCs continued to bear responsibility for the airspace of a group of NATO nations. Thus, they served as a model for the current Air Policing command structure in which CAOC Uedem bears responsibility for all of NATO's airspace north and CAOC Torrejón for the airspace south of the Alps.
Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Air Policing mission has become more complex: The contingency of civilian aircraft being used as weapons had to be taken into account. As "Renegade" situations must be dealt with by national Air Policing, adequate procedures were developed to guarantee the seamless transition from NATO to national Air Policing. Cross Border Agreements that exist among some Allies in NATO Europe allow seamlessly pursuing suspected air movements beyond national air boundaries.
"NATO Air Policing has proven to be a constant in a rapidly changing security environment. It provides NATO with a flexible capability to preserve the integrity of Alliance Airspace in peacetime," said retired Lieutenant General Friedrich W. Ploeger, a former Deputy Commander of Allied Air Command. "During the cold war, NATO Air Policing and NATO's Integrated Air Defense provided reassurance, especially for Germany, that NATO Allies were at its side as a "frontier state". Today, NATO Air Policing provides similar reassurance for our newer NATO members, in particular those directly bordering on Russia," he added.