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Aviation Industry and National Security

In past decade, the world has seen a lot of controversially new political and influential approaches that reshaped a lot of hard core international definitions. Tools influencing Political dominance has changed, to a more advanced approach, introducing 4th generation warfare approach, in which countries use non-conventional tactics to inforce their political domination. As new tactics are introduced relationship between different fields becomes essential to link in order to define broad aspects in which to protect our national security. National security policy has expanded significantly to encompass a wide range of threats, actors, and vulnerabilities.  

Rise of nationalism and economics approach adaptation into national security

Through the past years with the up raised western movement towards a more national and less global strategic state approaches, economic growth was defined as a new factor affecting states national security. This entanglement stems from a dramatic series of shifts in national security policy since the 1990s, such that security measures overlap with trade and investment rules in an ever-widening range. an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) found that between 2009 and 2015, the range of industries that national foreign investment policies treat as security-sensitive had widened significantly to include new fields. Moreover, countries in the eastern hemisphere has taken similar approaches, as in 2015 China has adopted a broad new national security law that treats security as a multifaceted concept with military, political, technological, cultural dimensions and emphasizing on the economic aspect in the equation. With many nationalists voted into power, a new vigorous political approach is implemented, which is seen as a way to protect their national security through an economic approach.

Aviation as a nation economical booster

Military power was once called the ultimate power in the world of politics, were hard power was defined as the use of military capabilities to pursue political means. But by the end of the cold war, geo-economics has become a major player in geo-politics, turning economic status into a major hard power which would become the key to success in the world of politics.

Aviation is a fragile industry that is affected deeply by many aspects. Airlines worldwide average profits achieved from the enormous capital invested in their development is 4-5%, making it a harsh industry to engage in, and fragile to any major changes. On the other hand, aviation industry contributes with large percentages into national GDP, varying from one country to another. Although not all the impact to the GDP is influenced by airlines direct contribution, most of the influence is seen as a catalytic effect, mainly dependent on tourism and connectivity achieved through the existence of airline industry examples:

1- Turkey: aviation sector contributed by $44.8 billion to countries GDP in 2017, in total 5.2 percent of the country’s GDP is supported by inputs to the air transport sector, forecast to grow 109% by 2037.

2- Ethiopia:  aviation sector contributed by $4.15 billion to countries GDP in 2017, in total 5.7 percent of the country’s GDP is supported by inputs to the air transport sector, forecast to grow 226% by 2037.

3- Emirates: aviation sector contributed by $47.4 billion to countries GDP in 2017, in total 13.3 percent of the country’s GDP is supported by inputs to the air transport sector, forecast to grow 170% by 2037. A study in 2020 shows that aviation contributes by 37.5% to Dubai GDP.

4- Qatar: aviation sector contributes by $9.79 billion directly to countries GDP in 2016, in total 6 percent of country’s GDP. It also contributes by 4.4% to local GDP through transport storage and communication sectors. Moreover, tourism direct contribution to global GDP is 2%, which sums that Qatar aviation sector contributes more than 12.4% of national GDP

Aviation industry as a hard power tool

In the past decade aviation was identified as a key economical player for many emerging economies, as it has a considerable impact on their GDPs. Countries started to adapt political tactics in which to use aviation as a hard power tool. On the 5th of June 2017, Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Emirates, Bahrain and Yemen, severed diplomatic relationship with Qatar and closed their borders. As well as, banning Qatar airways from using their airspaces for point to point flights or flying over. In one day, more than 18 regional routes closed, including their regional offices and websites which were banned in some countries. Moreover, airspace restrictions affected all outbound and inbound routes to Doha, as more time is added to each flight, adding more fuel and increasing the expenses significantly on the airline. In addition, being forced to ground medium range aircrafts, either cause their current routes are closed due to the blockage or because time for the flight was extended due to the re-routing, causing the need to operate a larger plane. These effects had a dashing economical effect on Qatar’s aviation industry which as stated above counts to more than 12.4% of Qatar’s GDP.

US Sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran

In 1995 with the tension increasing between The Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States in response of its nuclear program and its continues support to Hezbollah, the United States has agreed to impose a new set of sanctions on Iran. For the first time these sanctions included a harsh package towards its aviation industry, as the US companies were banned from selling aircrafts and repair parts to Iranian airlines, as well as, banning Iranian airlines from using US airspace. These sanctions had a devastating impact on Iran’s aviation filed specifically and Iranians economy catalytically. Currently 23 Iranian airlines operate 156 owned and leased aircrafts from a fleet of around 300 aircrafts, more than half of the aircrafts are grounded due to lack of spare parts and repair kits. Moreover, 8% of aircrafts are projected to go out of service each year, which makes it very challenging for the aviation industry to survive, projecting a huge deficit to its national economy.

Trump administration and Aviation

Through the US elections and as the nationalism movements gained momentum president Trump was sworn into office. One of the primary subjects to be addressed was an aviation industry reform program, in which to support national industry which includes both airlines and aviation manufacturers which contributes to 5.2% of nations GDP. This step was to preserve and protect national aviation industry economic growth, which aligns with its national security policies. Trump administration held talks with different US airlines representatives to put pressure on middle-eastern carriers to stop being illegally subsidized by their governments, which opposes the open sky’s agreements signed in 2000. On March 2017, just 3 months after president trump inauguration, a ban was issued on all aircrafts arriving from 10 destinations to US, that all electronics beyond the size of a phone to be banned from being carried on the plane to counter terrorism threats. This controversial move was seen as a way to pressure middle-eastern tycoon carriers which had spotless security recorded but presented a threat to US national airlines, to recalculate their efforts to counter the open skies agreement to their sole benefit, and enforce fair competition.


In the 20th century national security policy is changing to cope with a global and well-connected world. Focusing recently on economical approaches to preserve national security, new fields has been introduced that might have not been of significant effect in the past. Aviation industry is a new economical drive, that in the past decade many countries had utilized to as a soft power approach to gain influence in many regions. Through this paper its established that this approach also indicates that the use of aviation in gaining political stamina does not stop on its soft approach only, but could be utilized as a hard power tool in targeting economic growth in certain nations. To preserve national security new born threats should be addressed and precautions plans drawn in order not to be an easy bait for more knowledge-based nations.

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