Study Civil/Military Cooperation

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Study Civil/Military Cooperation

52ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Bali, Indonesia, 24-28 April 2013

WP No. 84

Study Civil/Military Cooperation

Presented by PLC and TOC


The increase of air traffic, changed airspace requirements for military aviation, environmental driving forces, and a growing demand for airspace and fuel efficiency requires steps to optimize the use of airspace. ICAO endorsed a global campaign on Civil/Military Cooperation (CMC). TOC and PLC studied CMC in regard to ATC operations and operational consequences. This paper is an Information Paper that provides guidance for initiating CMC.


1.1  Presently there are two major airspace user categories in the world, civil and military. The civil aviation sector (General Air Traffic (GAT), a term used in Europe to indicate flights that comply with ICAO provisions) includes private, commercial and state aircraft that are primarily transporting cargo and passengers. Military aviation comprises only state aircraft engaged in transport, training, security, offense and defense. Military state aircraft usually operate as Operational Air Traffic (Operational Air Traffic (OAT) is a term used in Europe to indicate flights (State aircraft) that not necessarily comply with ICAO provisions due to the nature of their operation, and for which rules and procedures have been specified by appropriate national authorities), which means that due to the nature of their operations they normally do not comply with ICAO provisions. These aviation sectors are essential to global stability and economies.

1.2  In 2009, the 37th ICAO Assembly endorsed a global campaign on Civil/Military Cooperation (CMC), which was recommended by the Global Air Traffic Management Forum on Civil/Regional Cooperation.

1.2.1 The intended outcome of the global campaign is:

  • to improve Civil/Military Cooperation,
  • to optimize the use of airspace by applying the flexible use of airspace,
  • to share information between civil/military authorities, and
  • to analyze the impact of modernization efforts by States.

1.3 TOC and PLC were tasked to investigate this subject in regard to the effect of CMC on (civil and military) ATC operations. The objective of this paper is to provide information and guidance how to establish global CMC.


2.1 The need for Civil/Military Cooperation (CMC)

2.1.1  The increase of civil air traffic, and changed requirements for military airspace (i.e. training with modern fighters) are resulting in a growing demand for airspace. States need to take a balanced approach to airspace management in such a way that the airspace requirements of both Civil and Military users are met. This requires communication, collaboration and cooperation between civil and military aviation authorities.

2.1.2  Environmentally driven forces require global aviation to take necessary steps to reduce aircraft fuel consumption and emissions. The major means to meet this objective is through improved flight operations, of which the Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) concept can contribute in a considerable way. FUA can reduce the number of track miles flown considerably, and thereby reduce the amount of aircraft emissions.

2.1.3  Following the end of the Cold War in Europe, defence budgets were cut. The severe military budget cuts reduced the amount of military flights in Europe considerably. Although the initial prospect of a war in Europe significantly diminished, it became soon obvious that political instability shifted to other parts of the world. This led to a re-focus of Military Operations, in particular in an Out of Area context (e.g. peacekeeping and peace-enforcing in other parts of the world). The latter in combination with newly introduced weapon systems, resulted in a different way of military airspace requirements and use. In example, exploiting weapon systems that, although lower in number, require more training airspace to test and evaluate. This made an even more intensified Civil/Military Cooperation more necessary then ever. To get an idea of the size and impact of military aviation, one could consider the number of military aircraft in Europe:

  • over 1,100 large aircraft (transport, cargo, tankers, maritime patrol aircraft)
  • over 3,300 combat aircraft
  • around 2,300 light aircraft (training, reconnaissance, utility)
  • around 4,500 helicopters
  • some 400 paramilitary aircraft

2.2 ICAO

2.2.1 The Convention on International Civil Aviation was signed in Chicago in 1944 to ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation throughout the world. The Convention excluded state aircraft operating as OAT, used in military, customs and police services from the above mentioned ICAO Convention of Chicago.  According to Article 3 (d) of the convention:

“The ICAO contracting States undertake, when issuing regulations for their state aircraft, that they will have due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft”.

This implies that States should arrange ATM (airspace design, procedures, communication, etc.) in such a way (possibly via Civil Military Cooperation) that civil traffic can safely be accommodated.  Due to the nature of their operations civil and state aircraft, transiting and en-route traffic excluded, usually cannot operate simultaneously within the same airspace. ICAO provisions are applicable to civil aviation (Art. 3 and 28 of the Chicago Convention). These provisions are not applicable to military operations, facilities, aircraft, personnel and procedures. However, they would be subject to regulations of the State Authorities.

2.2.2 In October 2009, ICAO hosted the Global Air Traffic Management Forum on Civil/Military Cooperation, which was attended by more than four hundred high-ranking civil and military participants from sixty-seven Member States, six air navigation service providers and forty-six industry organizations. The Forum concluded that there was no existing international framework to bring civil and military authorities together at a Global Level. Therefore the Forum recommended that ICAO should play a pivotal role in improving the level of cooperation and coordination between civil and military authorities and should serve as the international facilitating platform.

2.2.3  In 2011 ICAO published Circular 330/AN189 Civil/Military Cooperation in Air Traffic Management. The circular was prepared by civil and military experts and offers guidance on and examples of successful practices for civil and military cooperation. The circular acknowledges that successful cooperation requires collaboration, which must be based on communication, education, a shared relationship and trust.

2.2.4  The Air Traffic Services Planning Manual (Doc 9426), first published in 1984, was one of the first manuals to provide ICAO guidance material on civil/military coordination and cooperation. Most of that guidance material remains valid today.

2.2.5  The Global Air Navigation Plan (Doc 9750) has as a final goal the achievement of an integrated, harmonized and globally interoperable ATM system. Doc 9750 aims to provide initial guidance on, and facilitate implementation of, the civil/military coordination measures and cooperation concepts embedded in the Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (Doc 9854).

2.2.6  Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept (Doc 9854), first published in 2005, is a relatively new document which describes the services that will be required to operate the global ATM system in the near future and beyond. The Operational Concept addresses the elements required to increase user flexibility improve efficiencies and increase system capacity while at the same time improving safety. An integral part of these elements is consideration of the interoperability and operations of military systems.

2.2.7  Convention on International Civil Aviation (Doc 7300), applies only to civil aircraft and is not applicable to state aircraft (Article 3a) refers). ICAO can however play a pivotal role in improving the level of cooperation and coordination between civil and military authorities and could serve as the international facilitating platform. ICAO can also use its global and regional framework to bring civil and military authorities together, raise the awareness of the States in relation to the benefits of civil/military cooperation and coordination, and facilitate the use of existing arrangements wherever possible.

2.2.8  At the ICAO Twelfth Air Navigation Conference, the Presidency of the European Union, the other Member States of the European Civil Aviation Conference, and the Member States of Eurocontrol presented a working paper on CMC. This paper, “Airspace management and civil/military coordination” (WP52), concluded that the single European sky regulations require a performance driven approach. An optimal utilization of civil and military airspace structures contributes significantly to improved performance in terms of enhanced flight efficiency.  The Single European Sky (SES) aviation concept aims at achieving an integrated ATM civil/military air navigation system for Europe, also known as the European ATM network. The main aim of the on-going European airspace management initiatives is to bring tangible benefits in terms of flight efficiency through a more dynamic airspace management/ air traffic flow management process, that involve ATC as appropriate. Other goals of the initiative are an improved notification process, an improved CDR network and better supporting tools. The expected outcome of the concept is improved flight efficiency and reduced environmental impact.  Recommendations of Working Paper “Airspace management and civil/military coordination”: The Conference was invited to:

a) note the European airspace management improvement initiatives; and

b) recommend that ICAO develop guidelines on flexible use of airspace, airspace design and interoperability requirements to facilitate the integrated use of the airspace within the framework of civil/military coordination.

These were accepted by the Conference.

2.3 Present CMC

2.3.1  Throughout the years many States have improved the coordination and cooperation between civil and military ATM. In some States civil and military ATM has been successfully integrated. Nevertheless, in other States there is little or no coordination and cooperation between civil and military ATM. There are even States where there is only a military aviation authority responsible for the management of the National Airspace and where civil aviation is considerably restricted in their operations.

2.3.2  Some States do not have a civil ANSP, and ATC is operated by the military. In other States there is no military ANSP, and the military air traffic is handled by a civil ANSP. Some States do not even have an Air Force. Nevertheless, there are also many different situations that are in between of these extremes.

2.3.3  Much progress has been made in most of the ICAO regions in the management of the airspace and in civil/military cooperation. It is recognized, however, that improvements are required with regard to cooperation between civil and military authorities as well as air navigation service providers. Military representatives should participate on a routine basis in ICAO meetings, seminars and other related events as part of their State delegations in order to promote and foster cooperation.

2.4 Benefits recognized by IFATCA

2.4.1 IFATCA is aware that the ICAO Convention is only applicable to civil aviation (GAT), and due to the type of operations is not applicable to state aircraft (OAT) For safety reasons, IFATCA stresses the need for compliance with Article 3 (d) of the ICAO Convention:

“The ICAO contracting States undertake, when issuing regulations for their state aircraft, that they will have due regard for the safety of navigation of civil aircraft”

and recommends to integrate OAT into the overall ATM. IFATCA recognizes the benefit of cooperation between civil and military aviation in term of Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA), standardized airspace design, interoperability rules, and all other elements considered important for civil air traffic and mission-oriented state aircraft.

2.5 CMC in Europe

2.5.1  The EU Member States signed up to a Member State Declaration, promising to enhance CMC. This increased cooperation between civil and military ATM in Europe. The easiest way to achieve CMC would be when the highest authority in a State or region commissions, or mandates it. Globally this is not always the case. In some States the military are the highest authority, and they could have other priorities than CMC. In those situations a dialogue between civil and military stakeholders is required.

2.5.2  A regional approach has been adopted in Europe, where Eurocontrol has been designated as the European Organisation for the Safety of Civil and Military Air Navigation in Europe. This civil/military dimension is reflected throughout the Organisation in all decision-making and consultation-working arrangements. A Civil/Military Division, manned by civil and military servants, works on all ATM Projects with Civil/Military relevance such as SESAR. The Organisation’s legal Civil/Military structure can inter alia be seen in the highest decision-making body, the Permanent Commission where EUROCONTROL Member States are represented by their respective Ministers of Transport and Defense. To bring tailored and balanced advice on every ATM subject with a Civil/Military dimension, a Statutory Civil/Military Standing Committee (CMIC) has been established in which high ranked Civil and Military State representatives work closely together. One of its main deliverables for 2013 will be the delivery of a detailed Civil/Military Coordination Action Plan for Europe.

2.5.3  Besides the regional approach, the European Commission also commissioned national agreements of cooperation between civil and military in order to improve cooperation.

2.5.4  One of the most important steps taken by Eurocontrol regarding SES has been the military involvement in the project. The Air Force representatives have worked in recent years along with civilians for the development of SES and they have shown initiative and interest in the process. SES has defined as its main objective the improvement of aviation safety and security for GAT.

2.5.5  In some countries in Europe the military authorities provide ATS to civilian users in areas controlled by the Air Force. It would benefit civil and the military aviation if a concerted coordination centre, which operates during peacetime, would jointly be developed and which would be based on the ongoing and future initiatives and projects.

2.5.6  Eurocontrol has recently published specifications/guidelines regarding this topic:

    1. Eurocontrol Specification for harmonized rules for OAT, under IFR inside controlled airspace of the ECAC Area;
    2. Eurocontrol Specification for the application of Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA);
    3. Eurocontrol guidelines Supporting the civil use of military aerodromes;
    4. Eurocontrol specifications for the use of military remotely piloted aircraft as operational air traffic outside segregated airspace.

These publications, can be downloaded from the Eurocontrol website, and can be used by MAs in order to obtain better input on the importance and the necessity of CMC.

2.5.7  Eurocontrol provides a Civil-Military ATM coordination-training course (GENCIVMIL) twice a year at Brussels. This course provides an overview of the European ATM institutional framework and highlights the benefits of civil-military ATM cooperation at national and international levels. In practice, it aims to:

  • Provide knowledge and understanding of civil-military issues,
  • Demonstrate opportunities and benefits of CMC within the European ATM environment,
  • Explain how EUROCONTROL supports Member States to achieve and improve efficient co-ordination between military and civil partners in ATM,
  • Enhance civil military coordination.

2.5.8  In Germany, civil and military ATC is integrated into one system. Since 1994, DFS has been responsible for the handling of both civil and military air traffic in peacetime. Only military aerodromes are exempted from this integration.

2.5.9  Since 2001, at Eurocontrol the Military Harmonisation Group (MiHaG) initiated work as the harmonisation of military air traffic, the future military airspace requirements in Europe. In 2007, the Military ATM Board (MAB) was created to adapt and improve governance arrangements for civil/military coordination and cooperation in ATM. It coordinates the involvement of military State authorities in ATM planning and decision- making processes in the best sense of civil-military ATM Performance Partnership.

2.5.10  In the Netherlands, Civil/Military co-location is to be established at Schiphol. The Royal Netherlands Air Force is going to re-locate parts of its Military ACC at Schiphol. Also CMC in the AFMU Project is a good example of successful CMC.

2.6 Establishing a dialogue

2.6.1  To achieve a successful cooperation between civil and military ATM, it is essential to establish a basis of communication, mutual understanding and trust between the two parties. One way to achieve this is to start a dialogue. A dialogue can be started in many ways and at different levels. It can be initiated by higher authorities, but also on a lower level, and even via conferences, meetings and social events.

2.6.2  Former military pilots and controllers, afterwards occupied in civil aviation, could also contribute in establishing and initiating a social dialogue. Former military pilots and controllers are often still in contact with their former colleagues. Due to their previous occupation in the air force, these aviation professionals are in an ideal position to start a dialogue between the two parties.

2.6.3  Dialogues between civil and military ATM could be initiated by unofficial social events, i.e. football, volleyball or golf tournaments.

2.7 Operational differences in civil and military aviation

2.7.1 It is very important for civil and military ATM to achieve mutual understanding in the different objectives of the two parties. The nature of military mission-oriented flight operations often requires different demands for flight services and airspace. The objective of military flights also demands different requirements in the equipment and configuration of the aircraft.

2.7.2  Where civil aviation normally operates with VHF communication and navigation, military aviation normally operates in the UHF band. Furthermore, military navigation often uses different equipment, i.e. Precision Approach Radar (PAR), which provides lateral and vertical guidance to pilots to land, and TACAN navigation beacons. Sometimes air forces also have airborne radar facilities, like AWACS, at ones disposal. Military aircraft often do not comply with all TCAS requirements, although flying in non-segregated airspace. It is often not possible and/or desirable to equip military aircraft with systems that meet ICAO standards.

2.7.3  Military aircraft not only operate with ATC (civil or military), but also with Fighter Control (Air Defence), which allocates and guides military fighters to intercept intruders or civil aircraft that are suspected to have been hijacked. Fighter Control is normally not familiar with ICAO SARPs, and they do not operate according the ICAO Convention.

2.7.4  Even within military ATM, cooperation between military ATC units and Fighter Control does not always run smoothly. This is often caused by the different objectives of these two military services. ATC has to establish separation between aircraft and provide navigation service, where Fighter Control requires bringing aircraft close together (i.e. for interception, defence or aggression).

2.7.5  After the terrorist attacks in 2001 in the USA the number of interceptions by military fighters of airliners, that were suspected to be hijacked, increased substantially. In Europe this lead to many undesired and unsafe situations. Improved procedures and coordination for interceptions were developed for this reason between civil and military authorities.

2.8 Different objectives

2.8.1  The objective of military flight operations are mainly for defence, (national) security, transport and training. Military operations often require secrecy to prevent possible sabotage of the mission. Therefore military flight plan details, like destination and routing, are sometimes kept secret (even for ATC).

2.8.2  The objectives of commercial civil aviation are mainly to attract and satisfy the customers, both passengers and cargo, and to operate in the most efficient possible and safely manner. The final objective of commercial aircraft operators is to gain financial profit.

2.8.3  Government aircraft operating as GAT, are normally used for transport, surveillance and civil service (i.e. trauma helicopters, fire fighting, police surveillance, rescue services, etc.).

2.8.4  A substantial part of General Aviation (i.e. flight schools, banner towing, photo flights, scenery flights, aero carting, etc.) has financial profit as a prior objective. There are also historical and other sports aircraft that often do not have any profit-making objectives. There are even many examples (i.e. glider flying, para-jumping, aero clubs, etc.) where General Aviation uses military air bases when there is no military activity.

2.9 Requirements for Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA)

2.9.1  ICAO prescribes FUA as an airspace management concept based on the principle that airspace should not be designated purely as civil or military, but rather as a continuum in which all user requirements are accommodated to the greatest possible extent.

2.9.2  General consensus should be established to develop Flexible Use of Airspace. To achieve successful CMC, globally harmonized documentation on airspace design, FUA principles, interoperability and 4D management is required.

2.9.3  To achieve FUA, the requirements of military and civil ATC capacity need to be evaluated first. When the individual needs are established, the civil ATC sector configuration and the requirement for military training areas can be determined.

2.9.4  When the configuration of FUA is established, it is fundamental that the airspace is assigned to civil ATC well in advance, in order to deliver the required sector capacity improvements. Furthermore, the airspace should not be revoked without proper coordination with civil ATC sufficiently in advance.

2.9.5  ATFM is essential to achieve a successful outcome with FUA. Aircraft Operators (AO) should be informed well in time about the availability of FUA, so that they can consider this in their flight- and fuel upload planning. However this should not exclude the ad hoc use of FUA, which should also be available to accommodate aircraft in flight. Aircraft in flight reducing their flight-time due to ad hoc available FUA could be hindering previous ATFM planning, and therefore causing a capacity overload in ACC sectors or at airports. Although environmental benefits of ad hoc available FUA should have priority, the risk for capacity overload should be considered at all time.

2.9.6 Airways and route structures should be published for FUA to enable Aircraft Operators to conduct efficient flight planning. To increase efficiency for both military- and civilian operators, availability of FUA should be planned well in advance. Although ad-hoc availability is good, it complicates the planning of fuel upload.

2.10 Interoperability of civil and military ATM and aircraft systems

2.10.1 With FUA there are in general two options. Civil and military ANSPs delegate the designated airspace to each other, or one ANSP is responsible for the service provided inside FUA, irrelevant if the airspace user is civil or military. When an ANSP is responsible for designated FUA, interoperability and system coordination in ATM systems must be available with adjacent civil and military ANSPs. Nevertheless, when ANSPs delegate designated FUA, it still remains highly recommendable to obtain interoperability and system coordination. Inside FUA navigation aids should be available for both civil and military aircraft.

2.10.2 Normally military flights will file a flight plan at the place of departure. However, in some cases military flights will not file a flight plan or acknowledge their destination due to the nature of their mission. For example; quick response interception flights.

2.11 Aerodromes

2.11.1  There are aerodromes worldwide that are developed to serve both civil and military traffic. The infrastructure and services at these aerodromes are usually adequately available.

2.11.2  Military aerodromes are generally built and operated mainly to support military operational tasks; therefore, the aerodrome infrastructure and service offered, established by military regulation, may differ from those prescribed in ICAO publications.

2.11.3  It becomes more a trend for military aerodromes to service civil aviation, although they were initially not designed to serve both users. For that reason the military ATM community increased the implementation of Annex 14 SARPs at military aerodromes, and adjusted procedures to accommodate civil aviation.

2.11.4  CMC at military aerodromes could provide considerable benefits to national and regional economies. Civil aviation that is allowed to use military aerodromes could relieve other (civil) aerodromes that are reaching their maximum capacity. Local industries could benefit of the availability of an aerodrome in the vicinity.

2.12 Follow up

2.12.1 IFATCA should continue to study the subject to develop, in cooperation with other stakeholders, guidance on airspace design, interoperability, FUA, Letter of Agreements, etc. for the implementation of CMC.


3.1  CMC is required to meet future civil and military air traffic requirements for increased safety, security, capacity, efficiency, and environmental sustainability.

3.2  Key to successful CMC is the establishment of trust and transparency on all sides, and as a start; a dialogue is essential to achieve successful and effective cooperation. The needs and requirements of both civil and military airspace users must be fully understood and recognized. Only through mutual cooperation mission-oriented military air traffic and capacity-oriented civil air traffic can be handled smoothly and according to requirements.

3.3  The growth of Civil aviation and the changed use by Military airspace users, requires enhanced airspace planning processes, e.g. through the FUA Concept. CMC enables the provision of FUA, and thereby increases the airspace capacity considerably. Furthermore, CMC can enable direct routing and therefore increase fuel-efficiency and the reduction of aircraft emissions.

3.4  There are benefits when airspace is no longer designated as military or civil, and it is considered as one continuum and used flexibly on a day-to-day basis. Consequently, any necessary segregation of airspace and air traffic should only be of a temporary nature. In this way two different kinds of improvements will be achieved:

  • Increasing demands of both stakeholders for more airspace capacity in terms of volume and time;
  • Environmental benefit due to the reduction of emissions with the optimization of the flexible use of airspace.

3.5  An integrated air traffic and airspace management can meet airspace requirements of both civil and military aviation in peacetime. Alert, crisis or conflict situations require different needs for military aviation. Requirements of one airspace user are not always compatible with other airspace users, but they all pursue the same objectives: flight safety and security.

3.6  FUA provides benefits to both airspace users, military and civil. For civil aviation this can lead to substantial savings in fuel, time, reducing aircraft emissions and flight distances. FUA could establish a system of routes and sectors that can provide an increasing capacity of air traffic and reduction of delays for civil aviation. For military aviation it means a reduction of the needs to segregate the airspace in general, a better response to operational requirements, and improved and real-time coordination between civil and military.

3.7  IFATCA recognizes the benefit of cooperation between civil and military aviation in term of FUA, standardized airspace design, interoperability rules, and all other elements considered important for civil air traffic and mission-oriented state aircraft.

3.8  CMC requires extensive work on issues like airspace design, interoperability, FUA, Letter of Agreements, etc. IFATCA should continue to study the subject to develop, in cooperation with other stakeholders, guidelines for the implementation of CMC.


It is recommended that;

4.1. This paper is accepted as information material.


ICAO Convention on International Civil Aviation.

ICAO Circular 330/AN189 Civil/Military Cooperation in Air Traffic Management.

ICAO Doc 9426 The Air Traffic Services Planning Manual.

ICAO Doc 9750 Global Air Navigation Plan.

ICAO Doc 9854 Global Air Traffic Management Operational Concept.

CANSO – Civil Military Cooperation – The CANSO prospective (ed. 2009).

ROMANIAN MILITARY THINKING – Projects and initiatives in the field of civil-military cooperation for the use of airspaces, Col. Relu PANAIT (ed. 2012).

ICAO ANC 12 WP 52 – Airspace management and Civil/Military Coordination.

Last Update: September 30, 2020  

May 3, 2020   776   Jean-Francois Lepage    2013    

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