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The military is keen to contribute to solutions for airspace congestion-related issues

The military is keen to contribute to solutions for airspace congestion-related issues

Delivering capacity for airspace users is increasingly becoming a challenge for Europe’s ATM system, and using airspace as flexibly as possible is a must. To that end, on 11 December EUROCONTROL organised a major workshop with a wide range of civil and military stakeholders to discuss possible ways of enhancing FUA, the Flexible Use of Airspace.

Around 150 civil and military senior operational experts attended from EUROCONTROL Member States, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), airlines, computer flight planning software providers (CFSPs), together with experts from NATO and EDA, our fellow international organisations that are also involved in military mission planning, civil air operation planning and air traffic flow and capacity management (ATFCM).

The aim of the workshop was to review the implementation status of FUA across the network, and to share best practices in terms of processes, procedures and system support at both national and network levels. The workshop paid specific attention to the new challenges to civil-military cooperation stemming from the rapid growth of civil air traffic, as well as evolving military requirements.

Workshop participants praised the willingness of the military to contribute to solutions for airspace congestion-related issues through a more harmonized application of FUA/Advanced FUA concepts at European level, while underlining that the root cause for delays in Europe do not lie with the military.

The participants benefited from understanding the different perspectives of all parties involved in airspace management (ASM)/FUA, which led to a better common understanding of how progress in FUA across Europe could be achieved through enhanced civil-military collaboration based on current best practices. They noted that getting the balance right between civil plannability/predictability and military flexibility at national and network level is essential.

Other important areas identified were:

  • plan as you will fly to the maximum extent possible
  • synchronise the use of airspace reservations (ARES) with traffic flows and local ANSP capacity
  • prioritise system support and automation, which are paramount
  • harmonise planning tools and current ops tools.

Discussions focused on different aspects of FUA such as airspace design, processes and procedures, system support, training, flight planning and performance measuring. Potential solutions were tabled for enhancing FUA in the short term – both over the next 2 to 3 years, as well as for summer 2019, which is expected to be extremely challenging in terms of capacity.

Some concrete proposals coming out of the workshop were:

  • agree and implement detailed Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) procedures and processes at State level
  • agree on the common usage of ASM scenarios involving a set of impacted States as mitigation for capacity crisis situations
  • improve the Updated Airspace Use Plan (UUP) process, possibly ensuring timely notification more suitable for FPL purposes (e.g. H-3)
  • optimise and increase the use of the UUP by civil airspace users
  • improve airspace allocation (AUP – Airspace Use Plan & UUP) via B2B (business-to-business) services, and release procedures to provide timely opportunities to the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) for traffic flow measures and  to airline operators for routing
  • coordinate at network level with ANSPs, aircraft operators and CFSPs to take into account the AUP/UUP changes and FUA restrictions
  • improve the information exchange between Airspace Management Cells (AMCs) and NMD in order to better exploit the results of local civil-military coordination at network level
  • accommodate new military airspace requirements in the same time frame as the introduction of 4th and 5th generation fighters
  • integrate as much as possible the ASM and ATFCM processes, followed in a second stage by system support, to make common situational awareness more transparent
  • enrich the FUA know-how and spend effort in ongoing competence training to ensure all experts involved in the local ASM/ATFCM processes have the necessary knowledge and common understanding of FUA
  • implement an interface between local ASM systems and the NMD ASM support system to automate the continuous sharing of ASM data, allowing  assessment of the airspace planning and situation; the EUROCONTROL NM to initiate solutions, including via the military liaison officer function, to civil and military operational stakeholders
  • evaluate all offered functionalities in the local ASM systems (e.g. LARA) and exploit the offered system support to challenge the existing ASM processes
  • recognise the need to develop fully the area of Military Mission Effectiveness in order to support nations in assessing the impact of ATM solutions.