The Chief of the Air Staff’s Global Air and Space Chief’s Conference 2022 made a welcome return to the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London this week.
The annual conference brings together global leaders in Air and Space Power, industry and technology leaders and experts in international academia. This year’s conference theme is ‘Maintaining the Leading Edge’ and in his keynote speech, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the Chief of the Air Staff, used the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine to reiterate the importance of forging and maintaining global partnerships.
Ukraine is a vital test of our shared resolve to counter unprovoked bullying and aggression. It is a vital message around the world too – well beyond the security of Europe – where other allies and partners face constant and sometimes existential threats from state and non-state actors and proxies.
Paying tribute to the formidable tenacity of Ukranian forces and their harnessing of Air and Space technology, the Chief of the Air Staff illustrated that this is in stark contrast to the Russian aggressors, who have struggled to maintain Air Control, despite superior technology and resources. He explained that failure to invest in their people has resulted in Russian forces lacking the war fighting advantage that can only truly be gained through intensively working and training with partners.
Referencing the close ties between the Royal Air Force and United States Air Force and United States Space Force, the Chief of the Air Staff congratulated the United States Air Force on reaching its 75th anniversary in 2022. He spoke about how it is not just training and working together that binds us to our allies but also the moral and ethical like-mindedness that define our culture and standards.
As we look to the future as air and space forces, we know that to maintain our leading edge, we must be ready to understand, decide and then act faster, with even greater precision, lethality, and in more places around the world simultaneously than we do today; and sustainably too, in terms of both resource and environment.
Anticipating a future where the global Leading Edge in Air and Space Power is reliant on both technology and concepts, the Chief of the Air Staff announced the most fundamental review and reimagination of the RAF’s ‘Way in Warfare’ for over 30 years.
Central to this work will be a new and reinvigorated approach to Air and Space Command and Control, which in turn depends on battlespace connectivity, and a functioning, interoperable, digital command and control network. The Chief of the Air Staff told the attendees that this would undoubtedly be one of the most important shared technological challenges for global Air and Space allies.
Our aircraft, spacecraft and systems must integrate seamlessly across all operational domains to allow the transfer and exploitation of information, rapid decision-making and timely delivery of effects.
The Chief of the Air Staff then introduced the conference participants to NEXUS and RAVEN, a Combat Cloud and virtual communications node respectively. Together, they will sit at the heart of the Royal Air Force’s Future Air Command and Control system and create a Common Operational Picture by fusing data from multiple sources to provide real time battlespace intelligence.
This data will be integral for the next generation of fighter aircraft and the Chief of the Air Staff reiterated the importance of the Royal Air Force’s Future Combat Air System Programme, which will deliver an advanced combat air system capable of fighting and winning in the most hostile air environments. As with other future combat air programmes, it features a mix of swarming drones, and mixed formations of uncrewed combat aircraft as well as next-generation piloted aircraft, like Tempest.
As air and space leaders, we must also understand how our people, aircraft, equipment, critical resources and supply chains will need to adapt to operate in a climate-changed future environment. It will take decades and we need to start now.
In a rallying call to those present, the Chief of the Air Staff spoke of his delight that so many had signed up to the declaration of intention on Climate Change Collaboration.
The declaration signals the global Air and Space leaders’ commitment to working together to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and existing supply chains, using new technologies including sustainable and synthetic aviation fuels and alternative sources of energy. This is the first such agreement on a global scale from the armed forces, and signals a wider commitment for international armed forces to be leading the way in terms of sustainability.
That diversity in our conceptual thinking, in our technological breakthroughs, the diversity in the way we train together, as well as in the excellence of our mission execution, will ensure that we, as partner air and space forces, will always prevail, protecting our sovereignty, prosperity and security into the future, and above all ensuring the future defence of our skies and space.
The Chief of the Air Staff closed his speech to the conference by praising the “innovative and disruptive genes” in the global Air and Space Forces’ DNA, adding that they are behind our greatest collective successes.