Interview with Major General Karsten Stoye

Interview with Major General Karsten Stoye

“The increased global focus on the environment means that the military needs to play its part, without compromising the primary mission of defence and security.”

Major General Karsten Stoye Head of the Civil-Military Cooperation Division, EUROCONTROL

Climate change and the pressure to significantly reduce aviation’s environmental footprint is a main challenge for the sector. We caught up with Major General Karsten Stoye, EUROCONTROL’s new Head of the Civil-Military Cooperation Division, to discuss how military air traffic operations fit into the debate.

Major General, what’s the military perspective on the pressure to increase sustainability, and what is the military already doing to reduce emissions?

The increased global focus on the environment means that the military needs to play its part, without compromising the primary mission of defence and security. During my recent visits to some of the Chiefs of the Air Forces of EUROCONTROL Member States, I have seen that, where it is practicable, defence is trying to reduce its CO2 emissions. There is a real drive towards increased synthetic – emissions free – training, with some States aiming for a mix of live flying versus simulator training; this is becoming increasingly viable as technology improves. In fact, through the linking of flight simulators, more frequent multi-national training can take place than before within certain financial limitations.

We can also simulate huge training areas that would be impractical in the real world during peacetime. In the short term, military engine technology is unlikely to change and so demonstrating a reduction in overall emissions is what we must focus on. For example in the UK, the RAF is aiming for Net Zero by 2040. They recently made the world’s first flight on completely synthetic aviation fuel and they are introducing electric vehicles and other new technologies across the force. It is important that defence gets the message across that it is behaving responsibly.

To assist our nations in reducing overall emissions, we need to work across government departments and with industry. Large-scale wind farms present a challenge to surveillance for ATM and Air Defence. The UK Ministry of Defence has been working with industry to allow the development of some huge offshore wind farms in radar line of sight. The scale of these developments is such that the cost of providing alternative surveillance sources can be absorbed by the projects themselves.

From left to right: Major General Thomas E. Kunkel, Eamonn Brennan, Major General Karsten Stoye, and Brigadier General Stefan Neumann

The unlawful Russian invasion of Ukraine shows that armed conflicts are still possible threats to our freedom and democratic values, requiring joint military and civil efforts to defend what we believe in. The new political situation in Europe will require adaptations in related areas of civil-military cooperation. A civil aviation system which cannot adapt to military requirements in times of crisis or conflict at national or regional level will risk failure. Therefore, considerations on commercial aviation, security and defence need to be balanced and adapted towards security and defence requirements to ensure that national air forces will be able to deploy assets throughout Europe in all-weather conditions at short notice.

It is paramount that we establish and maintain military readiness for deterrence and for the defence of Europe. Effective civil-military coordination via the Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) concept developed by EUROCONTROL and implemented by its Member States will still play an important role in tackling airspace capacity challenges. In the context of CURA, the Civil Use of Released Airspace by the Military, the military invests efforts and resources in a well-functioning FUA concept, enabling the provision of additional airspace to civil aviation to the maximum extent possible. Effective use of FUA is also fundamental to making airspace use as efficient as possible, with a key role to play in reducing CO2 emissions by ensuring direct flights and optimised flight profiles.

Making aviation more sustainable is not just about reducing emissions and noise, but also about being aware of and preparing for the consequences of climate change. What do you think are the most pressing issues here for the military?

The military is not immune to climate change, and prudent military planning must take into account the effects of sea-level rise and more frequent extreme weather on military aviation and airfields. The reduction of natural resources, such as drinking water, due to climate change may lead to fierce competition and potential conflict; increasing migration and political tensions. The military are alert to such issues, they will often be called upon to assist the civilian population in a crisis. They look ahead and develop contingency plans for such scenarios.

What can aviation actors, from airspace users to airports, to policymakers and EUROCONTROL, do to make aviation more sustainable faster?

Firstly, we must ensure that all of our activities are conducted as efficiently as possible. Not just the flights themselves, but also the activities that support aviation.

Secondly, we must encourage industry to develop technologies that reduce our emissions across the board. While SAF is being pushed at the political level, it has limitations and is a stopgap until we can switch to the next generation of power plants. When these new technologies do arrive, we should aim to reduce not just CO2 emissions, but also noise.

The defence sector has a particular challenge. In the world of commercial aviation, governments can enforce a level playing field, by legislating that all parties must comply with new targets by a set date or face penalties. In defence, a suboptimal operational outcome is not acceptable, because our opponents may not be under the same constraints. So until new technologies offer levels of performance as good as or better than current technologies, the ability to adopt less environmentally damaging equipment may be limited In simple terms, a quiet, low-emissions fighter aircraft may be great in peacetime, but it needs to survive in combat to be of any value.

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