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DSEI Day Two: Culture the key to 'no such thing as a fair fight'


In the race to find new technology, innovation, and ways of working to combat ever evolving threats, there was a clear and maybe surprising theme on day two of DSEI: establishing new cultures when collaborating (to ensure the best outcome for the warfighter) will be how future, multi-domain and global military programmes will succeed.

Governments and industry have already experienced this with the move to ‘digital’ as a result of the pandemic. But that evolution (without such a dominant catalyst) needs to continue apace where multi-domain, international and future technology programmes are concerned.

From how we access and interface with systems (and indeed, systems of systems) to how we ensure the right information is easily available to the right people to maintain decision advantage – collaboration across industry, government and around the globe will need the right mindset, openness and culture to really succeed.

Air Advantage through Alliance

In the Aerospace Forum, this culture message was at the heart of several of the day’s presentations, including the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) presentation on Air Advantage through Alliance, led by Air Commodore Jonny Moreton. As the next generation air fighter replacing Typhoon, FCAS’s success will be underpinned by the need for the right culture and mindset. And this requires not just industry, but also governments to transform and adapt if they are meet the challenging cost and time constraints, while maintaining pace with the threat landscape.

The challenges are clearly more than time, money and technology. Digitalisation, particularly in the field of Test & Evaluation (see Digital Test and Evaluation Trends); a need for multi-domain integration – particularly in the sharing of intelligence data; and an ever-changing skillset for future engineers will all be important for the FCAS programme to be a success.

But the message from the RAF and the partners on the podium – Leonardo, BAE and Saab – was that having the right culture and mindset will be the most important element underpinning any international alliance.

Peter Nilsson, Vice President and Head of Future Programmes at Saab, was particularly clear that when creating new partnerships or collaborations for a future fighter programme, a new culture would be needed to balance the input from partners and contributors from across the world. FCAS will not need a Saab culture, or Leonardo values; to really fly it will need its own programme values, mindset and culture – all firmly pointed at the right end result. To quote Peter: “In Saab, we have a saying, there should be no such thing as a fair fight”. And the right culture will help ensure the advantage is with the FCAS team.

There was also a cultural aspect featured as part of the earlier presentation about Protector – the cutting-edge aircraft to be deployed mid-2024 for wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) tasks. This Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) will deliver a step-change in capability for the RAF as the world’s first certified RPAS able to fly in busy, unsegregated airspace, including civilian airspace, thanks to its ground-breaking ‘detect and avoid’ technology.

To enable this capability of flying in unsegregated airspace, a change to policy was needed, and policy can be a forgotten part of the culture change needed in complex military programmes. As mentioned earlier, governments will need to transform too. The Protector team spoke about the support from both the Military Aviation Authority (MAA) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who collaborated closely with the team to help enable policy change to support the next generation airborne ISTAR, even though they operate across multiple domains simultaneously.

The Protector team also spoke about their Content Delivery Network (CDN) – and again, culture played a key part in this development. The CDN system provides the intelligence analyst with the ability to access data and information they need in a way that our everyday culture has helped establish. It uses a ‘Netflix’ style interface.

The anniversary of the Battle of Britain

Finally, culture was central to the keynote speech from Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston CBE. Speaking on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the Chief of the Air Staff recognised the RAF’s disruptive and innovative history with technology and people at its core, going on to cover the more recent successes and achievements of the last twelve months, including the recent heroic support for evacuating Afghanistan. Also referenced was the need for increased collaboration with industry – a new level of partnership – to enable the RAF of the future to innovate faster and better than ever before.

But throughout examples of collaborative success such his highlights of FCAS and Protector, with their new ideas, technology and innovations, Mike’s message was clear – technology is not enough. It is what your culture will allow you to do with it that really matters.

Whether the adoption of a cultural shift to accessing data (or movies); how you work internationally or locally; how you use the new digital toolsets for improved performance; or how you engage the next generation of aerospace engineers, the right culture will be essential to how we make the most of technology for our defence and security industry – and ensure the fight is not always fair - so that we may maintain our advantage.

Listen to Robert Galvin, Business Development Lead for Air & Space, wrap up of Day 2 in the video below.