Air Power Conference and RIAT Draw Air Force Decision Makers

AINonline, by Chris Pocock, June 19 2017

Two major events in the UK next month will see the largest gathering this year of senior air force personnel from around the globe. The Royal Air Force (RAF) Air Power Conference in London on July 12 and 13 will offer expert speakers and discussion forums on a theme of 21st Century partnerships. Many attendees will then head for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford from July 14th to 16th, a public airshow spectacular that is also a venue for corporate hospitality.

Leaders from 25 air forces have already booked to attend the Air Power Conference, and at least 10 more are expected. The RAF has a reputation for “punching above its weight”, so delegates will be anxious to hear from its senior leaders on how the service is mounting continued operations in the Middle East and elsewhere, while coping with a constrained budget. But there will also be speakers from academia, industry, other air forces, and non-government organizations (NGOs), in a program that has been devised by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the respected UK defense think-tank.

This will be a unique gathering that promises two days of intense and informative debate,” said RAF Air Vice-Marshall Michael Wigston, assistant chief of the Air Staff. “We live in an era of instability and rapid change. This tests our existing partnerships and encourages new ones,” he continued.

But although top brass will lead the discussions, lower-ranking airmen within the RAF will be encouraged to participate from afar. The Air Power Conference will be live-streamed to RAF stations, and questions and comments from there will be encouraged. This is in the spirit of a recent initiative that the service has named “Thinking to Win”, after admitting that, “we lack an innovation culture; we don’t capitalize on training and education as well as we could; and we don’t have a clear goal that everyone understands.” AVM Wigston described the initiative as “a license to challenge that has really taken root.”

Another RAF initiative that will feature at the conference is the Rapid Capability Office (RCO) that the service recently created. It is supposed to bring new technologies into service in a faster, more streamlined fashion. A new company that could benefit from that approach will be speaking. The London-based tech startup named Improbable will discuss how powerful high-end meta-system modeling can be used for simulation, targeting and resilience planning. There will also be a speaker from the Defence Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), an organization that aims to bring “disruptive thinking” to the military world.

The theme for this year’s RIAT show is the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Air Force. The Thunderbirds F-16 team is making a transatlantic trip to display at the show, and there will be a big lineup of USAF aircraft, including a B-1, B-52, C-17, CV-22 Ospreys and F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.

The U-2 spyplane will also be making a rare public appearance, following the recent USAF decision to keep the high-flying jet in service indefinitely. Military aircraft from 17 other countries are also scheduled to appear at the show.

AIN is a media partner to the Air Power Conference, which is organized by the Air Power Association. To view the whole program and to book visit

Full details of the Royal International Air Tattoo may be found at


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