The Editor, Richard Gardner, interviews Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, KCB, ADC, BSc, FRAeS, CCMI, RAF, Chief of the Air Staff.

This is an excerpt from an article published in Aerospace International: April 2010
As the Royal Air Force enters its 92nd year as one of the best equipped and most operationally active air arms in the world, it is facing a future that is far from clear. By the end of the year it is expected that a new, and long overdue, Strategic Defence Review should provide a re-adjustment in policy to reflect changing circumstances but nobody is expecting defence funding, as a proportion of GDP, to be restored to the higher level that was in place when the last SDR set out its priorities. ACM Sir Stephen Dalton In the meantime, the RAF may have shrunk considerably in size but it is maintaining a global as well as national capability, including providing the second largest NATO contribution to the enduring war in Afghanistan. Since taking up his new responsibility last year as Chief of the Air Staff, ACM Sir Stephen Dalton has been close to the heart of the unfolding defence debate that is destined to define Britain’s future role and capability for the rest of this century. AI: The world has changed a great deal since the end of the Cold War. What do you think has changed most of all in the RAF in that time? And what hasn’t changed?

Aerospace International Contents - April 2010

  • Aerospace News 4
  • News Roundup 5
  • News focus 11
  • Plane speaking 12 Interview with ACM Sir Stephen Dalton, CAS
  • Boscombe hip-hop 16 Training Afghan pilots on the Mi-17
  • Have your say 17 AI readership survey
  • Kicking tin 22 Air crash investigation training
  • Special sector 26 Regional aviation overview
  • The South will rise again 30 Aerospace in the state of Georgia
  • The last word 34 Keith Hayward on green politics
CAS: The first thing that has really changed a great deal is the rise in the need for value in the information and intelligence we receive on targeting. Today it has to be discriminating and highly individual whether over the battlefield or in a more limited situation. Secondly, the requirement for precision attack — an ability to deliver precision effects — has transformed capability. Thirdly, agility in mind — today’s airman can maximise effectiveness ‘in the round’ by adapting equipment and how it is used. This degree of adaptability and observation — has completely changed the approach to delivering effects. For example, you can achieve a lot more in terms of positive results by using equipment in different ways to take advantage of the situation. We regularly use Tornado aircraft in Afghanistan for a show of strength at very low level and often this is enough to achieve the desired result, such as the enemy running away, without having to actually drop bombs. The other important change has come about through the development of ISTAR, bringing together increased capability — precision, agility and adaptability — to achieve a wider range of effects. We can now demonstrate the advantages of having a range of capabilities on one platform, so this ability to send aircraft on different tasks on the same day, or even changing the mission or destination in flight, can bring the sort of results we want without having to support a wide range of more specialist platforms for specific duties. These are just some of the changes that have taken place but as for what has not changed, I would say that the essential nature of the knowledge of how to apply air power — this basic requirement — has not changed, and neither has the ethos or culture of the Service. The training and quality of our people has not changed and this is why we are able to get so much more out of our capabilities than would otherwise be the case. Their willingness, abilities and mindset gives them a high motivation and this combines into a level of professionalism that, if anything, has sharpened over recent years. You cannot fail to be impressed when you visit deployed forces by their high morale which in many cases goes beyond what is expected of them, and this includes many cases of incredible bravery delivering air power and supporting military operations on a daily basis.

Royal Aeronautical Society
14 April 2010