EVENTS | AIR
Aerospace is the ‘joint glue’ of defence: DSEI air advisor
Harry Lye hears from DSEI’s first senior air advisor, RAF Air Vice-Marshal (Ret) Gary Waterfall, about plans to expand the event’s aerospace component for 2021 and what visitors can expect.
// A Tempest model on display at DSEI 2019. Image: Clarion Events
The aerospace domain is the ‘glue’ of joint operations, RAF Air Vice-Marshal (Ret) Gary Waterfall told us during the DSEI Defence Leaders Webinar in July.
Waterfall, who is acting as the first senior air advisor to Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), said the event’s aerospace component will be expanded significantly for the 2021 edition.
“To start with there is three times the space available for the aerospace zone than there was previously, which comes as a result of an increase in demand from industry and the ongoing support of the RAF,” he said. “Where it has traditionally been located at the far end of the north hall – visitors will remember Tempest featuring there at DSEI 2019 – the DSEI aerospace zone has now been repositioned to be at crowd centre, as part of the newly laid-out floorplan.”
Before joining DSEI, Waterfall served for 34 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) before retiring as Air Vice Marshal. He served as Harrier and Typhoon Force Commander as well as holding several other roles in the service.
Supporting the trend of joint capabilities
Waterfall also expanded on comments made during the online Air and Space Power Conference in July, where the joining up of capabilities was a key theme of discussion.
“Aerospace is a glue across the defence industry, and it is really telling when you listen to the language from both the First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin and the Chief of the Air Staff Mike Wigston that goes beyond talking fondly about each other’s capabilities; they emphasise how they are an integral part of UK defence as a whole,” he said.
DSEI has traditionally had a focus on the land and maritime domains, with the first DSEI – originally called the British Army and Navy Exhibition – held in Chertsey in 1999. However, Waterfall said, now that domains are increasingly perceived jointly, the increasing importance of aerospace has been an ‘overall response to the need’.
“We expect the RAF to showcase the significant advances that are being made in the synthetic environment across the whole arena of testing, training and operational rehearsal.”
“The world has moved away from the separate stovepipes of air, land and maritime,” he explained. “Look at our Joint Forces Command, now the Strategic Command, where you’re looking at defence as a whole, as opposed to those separate industries.
“When I think about air and space, what is it bringing to the party that the other domains don’t necessarily bring? I think that the air domain really is the joint glue that is holding separate defence capabilities together.”
Commenting on what to expect from the aerospace domain at DSEI 2021, Waterfall said: “Information is going to be a key area of focus in terms of the rapid transmission and exploitation of information. Once more, Tempest and the Tempest technologies are going to be a hot topic of discussion. We can also expect the RAF to showcase the significant advances that are being made in the synthetic environment across the whole arena of testing, training and operational rehearsal.”
Enthusiasm to get back to business is strong
The organisers of DSEI said that for the 2021 event, 75% of the expanded aerospace zone has already been filled with confirmed exhibitors, including MBDA, GKN and Kratos Defence and Security to name a few. Looking beyond the aerospace domain, they said show regulars including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies amd BAE Systems were also confirmed for the next event.
Waterfall said the number of bookings for next year’s event is already much higher than is usual at this stage in the two-year events cycle, in part due to the industry’s enthusiasm to get back to business after the Covid-19 crisis put a halt to most events this year.
Regarding the challenges of dealing with the potentially prolonged impact of the pandemic into 2021, Waterfall said: “What’s important, particularly about the ExCel Centre, is that we can control as much as we need to, to ensure that we meet any restrictions still in place, and we can work within them to ensure that we still bring the industry together to engage face to face.”
“There needs to be a place for defence and aerospace to come together and collaborate, which is perhaps more important now than ever before.”
While some industries, including the events sector, have suffered as a result of the pandemic and the resulting lockdown, Waterfall said defence aerospace had escaped relatively unscathed. However, he adds, the sector is keen to get back to doing business face to face.
“The defence aerospace industry has been operating pretty much business as usual, in the background,” he said. “The integrated review is coming up, so in terms of defence procurement and defence aerospace work is still underway, but – like many of us – adapting to the virtual world as much as possible.
“I think that there is a need to get back together. You can’t just browse the World Wide Web for possible opportunities. There needs to be a place for defence and aerospace to come together and collaborate, which is perhaps more important now than ever before. The only way you’re really going to do that to the strongest effect is by getting in a room together, as opposed to relying on virtual engagements which are more difficult, and more contrived by their very nature.”