NATO’s Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) plays a key role in shaping the operational capabilities of NATO member states, promoting interoperability and improving the skills of military personnel. The latest edition, TLP 23-4, which took place from November 13 to December 1, 2023 at the headquarters of Albacete Air Base in Spain1, marked another milestone in the effort to bring the program to a state of excellence. Focusing primarily on academic instruction and the use of state-of-the-art MACE (Modern Air Combat Environment) simulators, followed by intensive flight courses, the goal of TLP 23-4 was to enhance the tactical leadership skills of its participants2.
The first week of TLP 23-4 was filled with academic sessions, providing participants with a comprehensive understanding of the principles, tactics and strategies of modern air combat. Renowned experts in the field delivered lectures and workshops covering a broad spectrum of topics, from emerging technologies to evolving threats in the global security landscape. These theoretical foundations prepared the ground for the practical application of knowledge in the following weeks of exercises.
The highlight of the academic phase was the integration of the MACE3 simulators. The Modern Air Combat Environment simulators served as a state-of-the-art tool for realistic and dynamic training scenarios. Participants had the opportunity to immerse themselves in simulated combat situations, allowing them to hone their decision-making, communication and teamwork skills in a risk-free environment. The MACE simulators played a key role in bridging the gap between theoretical concepts and real-world application, ensuring that participants were well prepared for the challenges ahead4.
The next two weeks of TLP 23-4 were dedicated to practical flight training, during which participants translated their theoretical knowledge and experience gained through simulator exercises into practical skills. Albacete Air Base provided ideal conditions for these training exercises, offering varied terrain and airspace to practice realistic mission scenarios. Pilots, intelligence officers and air traffic controllers worked seamlessly together to carry out complex missions, highlighting the importance of joint operations and effective communication between representatives of different specialties.
The culminating moment of TLP 23-4 was a ceremony to celebrate the graduation of 39 people from the course, which meant that the trainees passed all the credits of the rigorous program with good results. Twenty-eight pilots, six intelligence officers and five air traffic controllers graduated, reflecting the program’s enormous role in training a multidisciplinary force capable of meeting today’s security challenges5.
The TLP’s core mission is to enhance the effectiveness of the Allied Air Force through the development of leadership skills, mission planning, briefings, tactical air operations, debriefing skills, and conceptual and doctrinal initiatives6. In addition, this activity includes a number of tasks: preparing NATO and allied forces’ flight commanders to serve as mission commanders to lead coalition forces’ air strike packages, instructing allied flying and non-flying personnel in all matters related to tactical complex air operations, introducing new NATO partners and allies to NATO tactical air operations, and providing NATO agencies with tactical aviation expertise7.
The NATO Tactical Leadership Program is a stand-alone organization operating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the air forces of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. According to the principle of sharing, the countries operating in the MOU provide funding, support and personnel for the TLP, as well as airspace, infrastructure and support resources for TLP courses8. Based on their contributions to the NATO Tactical Leadership Program, these countries are entitled to send a certain number of students and participants to the relevant course and have the right to influence TLP activities. Other countries, such as Switzerland, Turkey and Poland, have been invited to TLP courses as guests. Due to the TLP’s location in Spain, it is headed by a colonel in the Spanish Air Force (NATO OF rank – 5), who is responsible for two branches and a support unit; these branches and the support unit are headed by lieutenant colonels or their equivalents (NATO OF rank – 4). The heads of the Air and Academic Branches are selected on a rotating basis, while the head of the Support Unit is always a Spaniard9.
1 NATO Tactical Leadership Programme Course 2023–4, online – https://theaviationist.com/2023/12/06/tlp-2023-4/?utm_content=cmp-true [accessed: 7.12.2023].
3 What is the modern air combat environment (Mace)?, online – https://www.bssim.com/mace/ [accessed: 8.12.2023].
5 NATO Tactical Leadership Programme Course 2023–4, online – https://theaviationist.com/2023/12/06/tlp-2023-4/?utm_content=cmp-true [accessed: 8.12.2023].
6 Tactical Leadership Programme, History of TLP, online – https://www.tlp-info.org/history-of-tlp-2/ [accessed: 14.12.2023]
8 Tactical Leadership Programme, Organisation of TLP, online – https://www.tlp-info.org/organisation-of-tlp/ [accessed: 14.12.2023].
Photo: E. Kukutis, Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum, Latvian soldiers from the Baltic Battalion at San Gregorio training area, Spain on October 25, 2015 during NATO exercise Trident Juncture 15, online – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Latvian_Soldiers,_San_Gregorio,_Spain,_NATO_Trident_Juncture_15_%2822711500755%29.jpg [accessed: 23.12.2023].
Tekst powstał w ramach realizacji zadania publicznego zleconego w ramach Rządowego Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018–2030 r. „Bezpieczna Polska jutra – rozwój działań misyjnych Alioth Foundation”.