DSEI 2021 to focus on integrated operations
In July, after being on a knife-edge for months, DSEI organisers confirmed the event will take place in person in September. It followed the UK Government announcing that it was lifting Covid restrictions on large-scale indoor meetings and some international travel. Berenice Healey attended a launch event where DSEI introduced its new military advisors and announced its 2021 theme of integrated operations.
When DSEI confirmed it would be going ahead as a live international event in September, it was as if a million defence industry voices cried out in relief. Even if ongoing travel restrictions prevent some delegations from attending in person, the secure DSEI Connect platform will offer access to live and on-demand keynote sessions, conduct meetings with key contacts and engage with supply chain listings.
Previous DSEI events had focused more strongly on a naval and land presence due to a combination of logistics and sister events being more closely aligned to air exhibits. This year’s attendees will discover a new focus on air, space and integrated operations. After a summer of cancelled air shows, this will be the first time some air technologies will have seen the light of day.
To support this new push, DSEI has appointed two new military advisors: senior air advisor Gary Waterfall and naval and land engagement lead Jon Pentreath. They join Dr Michael Holden, who was appointed the event’s first space advisor in January. The new appointees discussed their roles at an event in early July to mark DSEI confirming it would go ahead as an in-person event.
RAF air vice-marshal (ret.) Gary Waterfall – DSEI senior air advisor
I’ve been with DSEI for about 12 months, and it's been a great journey. I came in principally as the air advisor because DSEI wants to increase the air zone and introduce space. The other advantage I have is that I have just left than service; my last boss was a guy called Tim Fraser who became the vice-chief of the defence staff, so I’m still very connected in a service context.
That enabled me, through the power of WhatsApp and phone calls, to get to talk to the various defence seniors to find out what they actually needed from DSEI themselves. I went to DSEI in 2019 and I walked away with the impression of a really good show, but I didn't think that at the time Joint Forces Command, or the Royal Air Force, made enough of it.
To get multidomain integration, defence has to join as a whole, not as the army, the navy, air force and strategic command
With the Integrated Review and the theme of multidomain integration, I thought DSEI 2021 was a real opportunity. I sat down with the now vice-chief of defence staff and said: "So what would defence and MOD want to see from DSEI as a show?" And right up the top is this multidomain integration. To get multidomain integration, defence has to join as a whole, not as the army, the navy, air force and strategic command, but come to the ExCel Centre, talk the same language and be integrated from the keynotes all the way down to their stands.
I'm delighted to say that right at the top of the defence mound they've recognised that what we've managed to do through DSEI is gel defence together and project that unified image. When people come to this live DSEI event in 2021 it is going to be great; they're not going to see separate services, they're going to see defence talking together.
No more so than space and cyber; you can't talk about space or cyber with one of the services without involving the other arms of defence, so it's great that they are that's how they think the shows should be. They’re fully committed and fully supportive of the show with maximum attendance, in making sure that the UK, with the publication of the Integrated Review and post-Brexit and post-pandemic they are standing on the stage and really extolling the virtues of global Britain.
Royal Navy rear admiral (ret.) Jon Pentreath – DSEI naval and land engagement lead
I left the UK Royal Navy this time last year after 36 years and my final job was Commander of the UK Armed Forces Joint Helicopter Command, so army, naval and air force helicopters based out of Army Headquarters. Together with my naval service, I'm pretty clued into what their opportunity is, and having worked in Army Headquarters for the last three years – and for two years prior to that in the mid-teens – I know quite a lot of the senior army quite well.
I've taken over both the navy and the army liaison with Gary leading on air and space. I think we're pretty well set up to cover all angles, and really excited to be on board with a brilliant planning team.
The last member of the domain advisor team is Dr Michael Holden. Looking at the importance of space, we're really keen to have brought someone on [board] who understands the space sector and is far more intelligent than us, hence he's a doctor. He's handling all of the space relationships, both Ministry of Defence and the defence supply chain.
A small percentage of top-secret military operations will, by their sensitive nature, take place in a disconnected environment
// Main image: DSEI 2021 will feature a renewed focus on air, space and integrated operations. Credit: DSEI