Air and Space the ‘joint glue’ of defence: DSEI air advisor

Harry Lye 23 July 2020 (Last Updated July 23rd, 2020 13:43)

In an interview with Air Force Technology, Defence and Security Equipment International’s (DSEI) first senior air advisor, RAF Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) (Ret) Gary Waterfall, said that the aerospace domain was the ‘glue’ of joint operations and shared details of DSEI’s plans for an expansion of its aerospace presence.

Air and Space the ‘joint glue’ of defence: DSEI air advisor
Team Tempest at DSEI 2019. Image: DSEI Clarion Events.

Commenting on the plans for DSEI 2021’s aerospace presence, Waterfall said: “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. 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. During his time Waterfall served as Harrier and Typhoon Force Commander as well as holding several other roles in the service.

Waterfall expanded on comments made during last week’s Air and Space Power Conference where the joining up of capabilities was a key theme of the discussion.

Waterfall said: “It [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 go beyond talking fondly about each other’s capabilities, they emphasise how they are an integral part of UK defence as a whole.”

While DSEI grew out of a focus on the land and maritime domains, with the first DSEI – originally called the ‘British Army and Navy Exhibition’ – being held in Chertsey in 1999, Waterfall said that as domains are increasingly perceived jointly, the increasing importance of aerospace has been an ‘overall response to the need’.

Waterfall explained: “The world has moved away from the separate stovepipes of air, land and maritime. 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? And I think that the air domain really is the joint glue, that is holding separate defence capabilities together”

DSEI said that ahead of the 2021 event, already 75% of the expanded Aerospace Zone had been filled with confirmed exhibitors including aerospace companies MBDA, GKN and Kratos Defence and Security to name a few.

Outside of the aerospace domain, DSEI said that show regulars including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, BAE Systems were already confirmed for the next event.

Commenting on the build-up to the event, Waterfall said that the show attendee commitments were already at 75%, well in advance of bookings at this stage in the usual events cycle, in part due to the enthusiasm to get back to business after the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Looking forward to 2021 and the challenges presented by Covid-19, Waterfall explained: “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.”

Waterfall added that the already high uptake in companies confirming their attendance reflected on the strength of the DSEI brand as a ‘one-stop-shop for the whole of defence’.

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 RAF to showcase the significant advances that are being made in the synthetic environment across the whole arena of testing, training and operational rehearsal”

While some industries, including the events sector, have suffered as a result of Covid-19, Waterfall said defence aerospace had escaped relatively unscathed but added that the sector was keen to get back to doing business face-to-face.

Waterfall said: “The defence aerospace industry has been operating pretty much business as usual, in the background. 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’s going to need 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.”

Commenting on Waterfall’s appointment, DSEI organiser Clarion Defence and Security Group managing director Tim Porter said: “DSEI helps to shape the defence industry in the UK and internationally, and we see extreme value for our stakeholders in supporting the growth of the aerospace arm of DSEI with the appointment of AVM Waterfall in a role that will focus exclusively on enhancing the air offering for DSEI 2021.

“I welcome AVM Waterfall to the team and am happy to report that we are already seeing positive effects of the appointment, with DSEI 2021 shaping up to include more air platforms and exhibitors than ever before.”

DSEI 2021, will be hosted at London’s ExCel Centre from the 14-17 September.