During the very early development stages of the EAG Combined Air Interoperability Programme (CAIP), one of the main concerns identified regarding the integration of 4th and 5th generation fighters was the affordable availability of “Red Forces” to provide credible training; this was also true for fighter training in general. Following those concerns, in late 2017, and inside the CAIP AO1 Project (Red Forces Capabilities), our EAG Permanent Staff developed the initial concept for an exchange system to ease collaboration of Red Air services. This new concept, baptized as HERMES (Harmonized European Red-Air Means Exchange System), incorporated adversary air capabilities (“Red Air”), and also different categories of training enablers related to fighter training, such as EW and CAS assets, JTACs, simulators, etc. This was part of a scheme designed to provide support opportunities for events ranging from limited national training at unit-level, all the way to national exercises. In order to prevent interference with multinational cooperation in major NATO and similar training events, Multi-National Exercises are excluded from HERMES.
Following the search for a suitable multinational framework to sustain this exchange system, a former EAG project, ATARES, was identified as the best option. The ATARES Technical Arrangement (Air Transport, AAR and Other Exchange of Services) is a very successful and mature tool that enables cashless exchanges of services amongst a wide community of 27 Air Forces (which includes the 7 EAG nations). It has provided a great amount of service exchanges for around 18 years now, covering critical capability gaps and shortfalls throughout Europe. ATARES remains a relevant tool, under the custodianship of the MCCE (Movement Coordination Centre, Europe) that is the administration entity in charge of the TA accounting and balancing.
The EAG Permanent Staff has collaborated closely with the MCCE staff over the last 2 years on the effort to insert the HERMES Categories into the ATARES Technical Arrangement. This culminated after the last ATARES Coordination Board Meeting held in Vilnius, Lithuania, in January 2020, with the unanimous endorsement by the 27 member-nations to include HERMES in the updated version of the ATARES Technical Arrangement. This means that a new and valuable interoperability instrument has been added to the ATARES toolbox.
From the EAG, we strongly believe that HERMES will provide all Air Forces with new ways to balance their ATARES national accounts, as they will have now more services to offer for exchange, in support of their national priorities and strategies. This innovation, by enabling new opportunities for the cashless exchange of services, will trigger more dynamism inside the ATARES market, allowing greater mutual support within the 27 nations´ community. These new HERMES categories will increase interoperability and will help to palliate permanent or temporary capability shortfalls. HERMES will also provide opportunities to optimise training and save money, by removing the need to use our front-line fighters (F-35, Eurofighter/Typhoon, Rafale, Hornet, etc,) to act as sparring partners to their own units or to basic courses, or to provide Red Air for limited national training events, ultimately saving flying hours of our state-of-the-art fighters.
In the near future, the EAG PS will organize several events to promote awareness and knowledge about the new tool, targeting the European fighter training/A7 communities as the main audience, in order to spread the word and kick-start the implementation of HERMES.