FOREWORD - DEFENCE MANAGEMENT JOURNAL, Issue 33
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy KCB CBE DSO ADC BSc (Eng) FRAeS RAF, Chief of the Air Staff
Over the last three years, the Royal Air Force has undergone significant change. The changes have all been focused on ensuring that we deliver a capable and affordable Force structure that is configured – as part of the UK’s joint capability – to cope with the unpredictable and complex security environment that exists today, and is likely to exist in the future. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the importance of delivering an integrated approach to conflict resolution that truly harnesses the effects delivered by Other Government Departments (OGD), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and, of course, other coalition partners. An effective military contribution is a critical part of delivering that overall effect and the UK’s approach to joint warfare is still a model to which most nations aspire.
The Royal Air Force has emerged from the Cold War as a lean, innovative and agile expeditionary Force with a proven track record of being able to rapidly adapt to emerging threats, and the opportunities presented by new concepts and technologies. Recent history has also convincingly reinforced the vital role that air power has to play across the spectrum of operations, from high intensity war-fighting, such as the Second Gulf War, to humanitarian operations, like the Tsunami and Pakistani Earthquake relief efforts. Today, our equipment, people and training continue to be world class. But there are many challenges ahead and we remain in a state of transition, with much still to do.
Agility and adaptability lie at the heart of our operational capability, and steer the development of our equipment, processes and people. Based on these principles, maintaining and developing the coherence of our Force structure, especially in the areas of Command and Control, ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting, Acquisition and Reconnaissance) and integrated air/land operations, is a key task. These are critical capabilities in the fight for increased speed, tempo and accuracy. The Royal Air Force’s already robust ISTAR capability is set to improve further still with the introduction of Sentinel and Nimrod MRA4. We also need to develop our unmanned air vehicle capability, and exploit the potential benefits of linking platforms and sensors together into an effective network. A lot has been spoken and written about network-enabled capability; it’s time to put real substance into the rhetoric.
Although the need for agility and adaptability is obvious in the operational arena, these characteristics should form the basis for the way we do day to day business at home. The collocation of HQ Strike Command and HQ Personnel and Training Command offers a real opportunity to reduce the HQ overhead and improve the agility of our decision-making. Agility also needs to underpin the procurement process in order to exploit the opportunities offered by new technology, ensure that our front line equipment meets the needs of current and future operations, and provide our Forces with the combat edge they require for success. The Defence Industrial Strategy provides a real opportunity to create an effective partnership between the defence sector and the MOD, with benefits for both parties. People, of course, are the essence of our success, and we need to continue to implement the many training and personnel initiatives to better prepare our personnel for the dynamic and complex environment in which they have to operate.
The pace and scale of change across defence is significant, and will need careful management if we are to maximise the benefits and understand the interrelated consequences of the many change programmes. The recently introduced Royal Air Force Development Plan is the mechanism through which my own Service will co-ordinate the various change initiatives and coherently shape the future development of the Service. We cannot, however, work in isolation. Strong relationships with the other Services, OGD, NGOs, industry and other potential coalition partners are essential to delivering the balanced, agile and affordable military capability for which the UK is renowned.