Experts at Abu Dhabi summit want GCC military integration

Defence objectives now cover situations and areas where all regional allies need to operate.

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ABU DHABI // International defence experts have called on Arabian Gulf countries to establish military command systems able to exchange and share information at the click of a button.

The calls were made yesterday at the C4ISR Summit (Command, Control, Communication, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) in Abu Dhabi.

The GCC secretary general, Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani, told the summit that the GCC was politically in unison and called for the countries' militaries to follow suit.

"GCC countries have to be able to be integrated and interoperable to share intelligence and information and be ready to work together at a higher and more complete level," he said.

According to the German Air Force's director of projects and chairman of the Political-Military Society in Berlin, retired Col Ralph Thiele, the C4ISR concept is the provision of information, intelligence and knowledge to decision makers in order to provide for superior situational awareness and decision-making with regard to achieving desired effects.

"I suggested to the EU to get its act together in sharing information and being more interoperable, and this is my suggestion to the Gulf countries," Col Thiele said.

A variety of multi billion-dollar infrastructure security projects are in development across the region that have C4ISR at their core.

Key projects include Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior modernisation programme, which requires the integration of C4ISR systems and supporting infrastructure across 900 kilometres of the Saudi Arabian land border with Iraq, in addition to its southern land border with Yemen.

In the UAE, the first phase of the UAE Command and Control System (ECCS) is under development.

This major C4ISR project aims to maximise the combined efficiency of the UAE Armed Forces through the federation, integration and coordination of UAE military assets.

A Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defence consultant, retired Maj Gen Sadek Al Juhaiman, said the main threats affecting the region were from non-conventional warfare vandalism, cyber attacks on key networks, cyber attacks at installations and direct attacks on targets.

"The revised regional defence key objectives now cover all domains - sea, land, air, space and cyber," he said.

Gen Al Juhaiman said that adaptable and interoperable capabilities would allow the region to operate with its regional allies.

"The near-term objectives for the region should be to, ultimately, build a system that is interoperable with regional systems and resources, to establish a regional interface that is activated only when needed and combined operational exercises," he said.

Apart from the three armed forces services (army, navy and air force), critical national resources would be integrated, he added.

According to Brig Alan Hill, the head of information superiority at the British Army, ensuring the acquisition and appropriate application of C4ISR capabilities and assets would guarantee informational superiority in a battle space.

Brig Hill stressed the importance of training individuals who collect and use sensitive information due to its crucial nature. "The technology is a major component but, at the human level, personnel have to be trained on how to handle the information as risks may occur from many sources," he said.

Gen Al Juhaiman echoed Brig Hill's comments and stressed that security awareness and training should be increased among staff.

"Strict procedures should be applied for material transfer to the system as the possibility of compromising all the data and systems is viable," he said.