ARMLET: setting-up an air marshal training centre

In September 2016, delegates from across the Europe gathered in Bucharest to attend the closing conference for the Romanian-led ARMLET project. Lucy Rawlings attended the event to report on the initiative itself and witness first-hand some of capabilities of the air marshals trained as part of this European Union-funded programme.

The ARMLET project first came to life in 2014 with the mission of creating an air marshal training centre and programme, and was dedicated to “increasing the operational capacity for authorities in the field of fighting against in-flight threats”. The main objectives of the project were: to establish a permanent training facility for personnel involved in in-flight security operations; to provide the necessary know-how for European Union Member States interested in implementing an in-flight security programme; and, to become a platform for sharing ‘best practices’ and ‘lessons learned’.

The project has been led by the National Intelligence Academy ‘Mihai Viteazul’ as part of a joint venture with the Gradistea Training Centre and, from the Romanian Intelligence Service, the General Directorate for the Prevention and Countering of Terrorism/Antiterrorist Brigade. It has been co-funded by a 1.6 million Euro grant from the ‘Prevention Of and Fight Against Crime Programme’ of the European Union.

ARMLET was awarded the funding as the programme and training centre are seen to be vital in helping to support key aviation security goals within the EU’s security development plans and aid them in securing their nations’ borders.

Radoslaw Olszewski, the Policy Officer for the Counter Terrorism Unit at the European Commission, spoke on behalf of the EU at the ARMLET Closing Conference and stated that the EU would like to help strengthen other nations in this field and encourage them to utilise the facilities in Romania. He emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge and information and that the risk of not doing so could be much greater than simply fearing the information could fall into the wrong hands.

Dr. Niculae Iancu, rector of the National Intelligence Academy and ARMLET project manager, asserted ARMLET’s mission statement: ‘Train with the best to be ready for the worst’. This sets the true undertone for the project’s collaborative expertise and promotion of a new approach to aircraft security through intelligence led operations. The project’s name, ARMLET, stands for the values it represents: A – ambition, “We encourage you to overcome your limits”; R – resilience, “We train you to withstand adversity’”; M – motivation, “We stimulate and support your professional commitment”; L – legality, “We cultivate respect for the law”; E – excellence, “We embody the highest level of excellence”; and T – training, “We will help you become a truly skilled professional”.

The first Romanian air marshal unit was established in 1970 and operated exclusively on Tarom (Romania’s flag carrier) flights. Today, Romania is one of only eight EU member states that run such a programme, including the Czech Republic, Austria, France, Poland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK (although the UK’s in-flight officers are only deployed in a state of emergency). The ARMLET project is at the forefront in developing an even more refined and specialist air marshal training programme suited to the demands of aviation security and the threats it faces in the modern day. Air marshal programmes, in part due to the deterrent effect, can only be truly beneficial to the global industry if they are internationally widespread and, at ARMLET, they are trying to promote the spread of such programmes across Europe by developing a programme capable of being implemented across all EU member states.