The 8th Dubai Air Chief's Conference (DIAC), staged this year on Saturday nth November 2017, is always the blue-ribbon event ahead of the bi-ennial Dubai Airshow which, for the last few years has been staged at the new Al Maktoum International Airport. This is inland from the man-made port of Jebel Ali, south of Dubai city.
The guest of honour at DIAC was HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Department of Civil Aviation and chairman of Emirates Airline. He briefly commented on the importance of air power in the region, pointing out the conflicts taking place in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
The welcome was presented by Major General Ibrahim Al Alawi, commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence who announced that the theme of the conference was The Future of Air Power: Exploiting Advances in Network Centric Warfare.
General Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff, United States Air Force gave the opening address leading off a broad selection of senior military officers. Setting the technology theme, he reminded delegates that "in the globalised, digitised world, over three billion people now own a smart phone--a figure that will double over the next decade. The technology within such phones through apps and their connectivity made them a threat in the hands of those 'with malicious intent'.
He said that it had only been 23 years since the General Atomics MQ-l Predator had taken its first flight, and now "extremist were able to fly their own commerically built drones". He acknowledged that air power was not assured, as witnessed in the skies over Syria.
Gen. Wilson added that while the capability of 5th Generation aircraft would help to ensure national sovereighty, this came at a high price in both maintenance and operating costs. Low and slow, together with long loiter periods are valuable. Somewhat surprisingly he also noted the value of new, low-end, light attack 'OA-X' aircraft that could provide 'danger close' combat air support to troops enganged on the ground. Although he did not refer to any location specifically, it is a lesson learned not only in Iraq and Afghanistan by NATO and its allies, but also by allied forces in the fight agains Daesh in Iraq and Syria, as well as by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
The vital requirement to digitally network military systems efficiently was to understand how to collect, share and learn from data quickly, regardless of domain.
Globalisation was allowing an adaptive enemy with access to digital technology, even relatively low technology that was commercially available, to pose major security threats, said Brigadier General Rahed Al Shamsi, deputy commander of the UAE Air Force.
Brig. Gen. Al Shamsi repeated the need to continually reduce sensor to shooter time, for which fast, reliable and secure networks were needed and praised other national forces who had supported the Air Force's capability here. "The UAE is proud to work alongside partners who have provide assistance and support. Many lessons have been learned and areas of improvement identified when networks are realised," he said.
He echoed an oft repeated plea by the military to industry that software and hardware needs to be more upgradable although he acknowledged that network centric systems were not cheap. However, future weapons needed to be viewed as mutlirole/sensor platform. "The UAE AF will spend time and money on networked forces architecture and C4 with a new air operations centre," he stated.
Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Leight Gordan, head of the Joint Strike Fighter programme, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) said that Australian defence strategy involved becoming a 5th Generation Air Force, fully networked to deliver leathal and non-lethal air power.
Future operational success would mean "staying ahead of the ever quicker decision making cycle of our adversaries". He added an observation that "the fog...