TORREJÓN, Spain – Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz, Commander of NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Torrejón, Spain, received media representatives to provide an update on his unit's role and contribution to Allied air operations on May 4, 2022.
Keeping watch of our southern Allies' airspace, shielding and securing their skies is our mission here at Torrejón
"The CAOC is a multinational command and control unit where members of 18 NATO Allies work to together to plan, coordinate and supervise air operations for Allied air forces in the south of Europe," General de la Cruz said. "In addition to the enduring mission of policing the skies of the Allies, we are also supporting NATO's activities shielding the eastern flank with additional aircraft after Russia's attack on Ukraine in our area," he added.
NATO's southern Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejón near Madrid welcomed media on May 4 to introduce their mission and responsibilities. Photo by Arnaud Chamberlin.
Spanish Lieutenant General Fernando de la Cruz, welcomed the visitors and explained role his team has in supporting NATO's air activities in the south. Photo by Arnaud Chamblerin.
Eighteen Allies form the CAOC Torrejón team, their Static Air Defence Centre keeps 24/7 vigilance of Alliance airspace in the south. Photo by Arnaud Chamberlin.
Spanish F-18 jets simulated an alert take-off at Torrejón Air Base demonstrating how CAOC scrambles Allied jets to safeguard the skies. Photo by Arnaud Chamberlin.
The CAOC staff briefed several journalists who arrived at Torrejón Air Base, some 20 kms west of Madrid, on all their tasks and responsibilities. Inside the NATO operations centre the visiting media saw first-hand the command and control processes of NATO Air Policing. One focus of CAOC Torrejón is on controlling Air Policing along the eastern flank, specifically now with Netherlands and United Kingdom fighters flying alongside their Bulgarian and Romanian colleagues showcasing NATO's cohesion and solidarity.
"The team is working with radar and control stations from the Azores, and to the east of Turkey to ensure awareness of all aircraft movements in our area of responsibility," said General de la Cruz. When his staff are notified of an unidentified track, they take the decision on how to respond to this situation, which may require launching a pair out of the 30 fighter jets kept ready at more than a dozen Allied air bases to find out details of the incident and possibly intercept and identify the track.
Torrejón Air Base is one of the Allied air bases in the south. From here, Spanish F-18 fighter jets can be ordered to launch and execute such an intercept. Presently, the Fighter Wing is deployed with four of their jets in support of the Alliance's Air Policing in the Baltic Region, under the control of NATO's northern CACO at Uedem.
During their visit to Torrejón, the media representatives had the opportunity to also witness a simulated training scramble of F-18 fighter jets made available by the Spanish Air Force.
"We wanted to demonstrate both the command and control aspects in our operations centre and the actual alert start of the fighters as one example of the many elements involved across our Allied air forces in the 24/7 precision clockwork of Air Policing," said General de la Cruz. "Keeping watch of our southern Allies airspace, shielding and securing their skies is the mission of my team at CAOC Torrejón; I am proud that we have so expertly accomplished it in these times of new security challenges," he concluded.