Air Chiefs Walk the Talk on Integration at Pre-airshow Conference
Coalitions, co-operation and network integration were the buzzwords at Saturday’s Dubai International Air Chiefs (DIAC) conference in Dubai, organized by local think-tank Inegma. Six of the 10 air chiefs who spoke, talked of the inter-dependence between air forces, including two from the UAE Air Force and Air Defence. (UAEAF&AD). But one of the speakers privately told AIN that he had not yet seen much practical integration amongst the defense forces of the GCC states, beyond bilateral exercises.
“We aim to reach capability and connectivity for coalition operations,” said Major General Mohammed Sweidan, commander of the UAEAF&AD. He said that the service would establish a Gulf Training Centre of Excellence to pursue the concept. Then the UAEAF&AD air support commander, Brigadier Genneral Mohammed Muran, called for a “robust regional integrated air and missile defencse.” One of the guiding principles of such an integration would be a focus on net-centric capability, rather than platform capability, he addedconcluded. “It’s not an impossible objective,.” he concluded.
Air Chief Marshall Sir Andrew Pulford, chief of the air staff, UK Royal Air Force, said that the mutual interests of airmen “were more entwined than ever.” He paid credit to the UAE for hosting the Advanced Tactical Leadership (ATLC) course. The 21st edition of the ATLC is taking place at the same time as the Dubai Air Show. “It’s a highly realistic environment in which to train,“ he added.
Lieutenantt General John Hesterman, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Central Command (CENTCOM), talked of a plan– - apparently led by the U.S.– - to establish a “Gulf Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC)”. This could be the genesis of a regional operations center, he hoped, - “an incremental step towards regional capability.”
Vice Admiral John Miller, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces in CENTCOM, described how his service “changed the way we do business” to understand Air Force doctrine. The U.S. Navy and Air Force was is now conducting truly combined air and maritime operations, thanks to a merger of their previously -distinct doctrines and C2 systems.
General Denis Mercier, the French aAir fForce chief of staff, described the very quick reaction operations of his service over Libya at the beginning of the conflict there in 2011, and again in January of this year when France decided to intervene in Mali. The French strike on Benghazi on 19 March 19, 2011 led to NATO “Operation Unified Protector.” Mercier acknowledged the help of partner air forces in the Mali operation, providing tankers, air lifters and ISR aircraft.
The Pakistan aAir fForce chief described how careful his pilots are to avoid collateral damage when striking terrorist targets within the country. Air Chief Marshall Tahir Rafique described how his service had established more efficient networks for sharing intelligence with the Pakistan Army and other security agencies. He looked forward to more sophisticated intelligence fusion capabilities, such as those enjoyed by the U.S, through the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS). The U.S. model is good, “but a tall order to follow,“ he said.
Turkish aAir fForce commander General Akin Ozturk fielded an awkward– – but legitimate– – question from the audience on the integration theme. After his talk on the Turkish air force’s TAF’s training offers, he was asked whether Turkey’s recent selection of a Chinese air defense system would endanger inter-operability. “It’s not the final decision; there are new proposals coming,” he said.