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Global Air Chiefs Conference 2021

CAS making his speech at a presentation stand with display screens.

The Global Air Chiefs Conference 2021 was attended by leaders and key-speakers in air and space power, who gave presentations on how threats are fast-evolving and how the Armed Forces is prepared and able to respond.

During his opening speech, the Chief of the Air Staff explained how Air and space power, "gives our Government the choice and ability to act and signal strategically on a global stage, at range, at speed, precisely, with minimal political risk and maximum political choice,” before several large topics of interest were discussed. 

Topics discussed included the investment into the RAF's technology, creating a mix of drone piloted, remotely piloted, and autonomous platforms in the Future Combat Air System.

“Our new Gladiator distributed simulation system will be at Initial Operating Capability by the end of this year and to invest £40M over this period to add platforms such as Wedgetail; MQ9B Protector; our Guardian air defence control system and to look to include the Royal Navy’s Type 45 air defence destroyers and other maritime, space or land synthetic environments.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston
Chief of the Air Staff

The Chief of the Air Staff then stated Space Defence, "underpins almost every aspect of life in the information Age, from food on our shelves to fuel in our tanks to the critical enabling of operations across all domains," with UK Space Command inaugurated on the first of April this year and the opening of the new Space Command headquarters at RAF High Wycombe shortly.  

Also announced was the combat cloud called NEXUS, soon to be introduced operationally.

“This is the combat cloud we talk about, brought to life: data from every sensor, on any platform in the operating space; processed in real time at the edge into useful information; flagged to any user with a need for that information; accessed remotely and fused with what is already known to give situational awareness at any level; and enabling better decisions than our adversaries, executed at the speed of light.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston
Chief of the Air Staff

The speech later acknowledged the challenge of climate change, and how the RAFs pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become net-zero by 2040 will affect aircraft and practices.  The Chief of the Air Staff emphasised that, "there can be no higher priority than ensuring we can continue to attract, recruit and sustain the highly skilled and diverse workforce we need from across every part of the UK population. Not only is this the right thing to do at a personal level, our future success as an Air Force depends on it."

CAS making his speech at a presentation stand, with the audience listening and display screens.

Highlighted was the future of training in a synthetic environment and the RAF's greater development of all its personnel, as well as the increased recruitment of women and those from ethnic minorities.  The Chief of the Air Staff then announced a significant change to RAF Branches and Trades.

“I can announce today that we are going to transform the model of career Branches and Trades – that dates back to the 1950s – and ensure the next generation Royal Air Force is fit to face the challenges of the future, with eleven new professions that replace the 68 Branches and Trades today.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston
Chief of the Air Staff

The full Chief of the Air Staff Global Air Chiefs Conference speech is available. 

The Minister for the Armed Forces also presented at the Conference, supporting what the Chief of the Air Staff had stated.  He added that the operability demands of the Armed Forces and its allies broadly falls into five areas below: 

"What we need of you as a day one/night one air force, fighting a peer or near peer enemy; what we need of you to defend our interests in Space; what we need of you to understand what our adversaries are doing - both from space and in the sky; what we need of you to support quick deployment of troops and materiel; and what we need of you to build and maintain partnerships and alliances with friendly air forces around the world."

James Heappey MP
Minister for the Armed Forces

The Minister for Armed Forces speech can also be read here.