Data and coding the new weapons in digital age of warfare, Dubai military summit hears

Software playing growing role in defence strategies as air force leaders call for greater collaboration

Gen Charles Brown, United States Air Force chief of staff, at the Air Force Leaders Conference in Dubai. Ruel Pableo for The National
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Military chiefs have called for greater collaboration and sharing of information to maintain regional security in a new era of warfare as battlegrounds change in the digital age.

Speaking at the 10th annual Dubai International Air Chief’s Conference, they said nations were at risk from an ever-changing foe armed with the latest technologies.

The event was a curtain raiser for the five-day Dubai Airshow that begins on Sunday at Dubai World Central, and heard presentations and a panel discussion from military aviation experts from around the world.

The way we fight and win wars must change to keep pace with this abundant threat.
Major General Staff Pilot Ibrahim Nasser Al Alawi

Gen Charles Brown, the 22nd chief of staff of the United States Air Force, compared the threshold of military change to the way Netflix transformed the way the world consumed media and entertainment.

“Our air forces must seize the information age while breaking down parochial ways of thinking,” he said.

“We can see this in the way Netflix has broken through this barrier.

“It has leveraged technology to seize an advantage that has changed the world.

“It took something physical and transformed it into something that was completely digital.

“We must now look at how we can change the way the military works in a similar fashion."

Data and code were fast replacing heavy artillery as threats to national security in an evolving theatre of war and modern combat scenarios, experts said.

“It is not just about technology, it is also about what we work together as allies,” said Gen Brown.

“Through our partnerships, we amplify power and increase our collective security.”

Gen Brown referenced the US Department of Defence Joint All Domain Command and Control strategy (JADC2) that leverages artificial intelligence in a new war fighting concept.

The system connects data sensors, shooters and related communications with all military services in the US.

JADC2 not only interconnects weapons systems but also embeds advanced technologies like machine learning, AI and predictive analytics to achieve US military objectives.

Still in its early stage of development, the US Air Force is most advanced in its implementation of the JADC2 technology.

“We know if we connect the right sensor with the right ship, we can act faster than our adversaries in any battlefield,” said General Brown, who was made the first African-American military chief of staff in the US in August, 2020.

“Data is more powerful and its security is something we must get right. Modernisation will increase the speed of decisions, rather than slow them down.

“If we are integrated we can create a truly formidable force.

“If our air forces are going to be successful in the future they must be connected.”

Discussion are ongoing with the US State Department for a $23.37 billion trade deal to sell weapons systems and up to 50 F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE.

'The way we fight wars must change'

It is hoped any sale will enable the UAE to take more control of regional security.

UAE Air Force commander Major General Staff Pilot Ibrahim Nasser Al Alawi, said while the regional security challenge has grown, so has the rate of change and potential threats.

“Many air force strategies have developed to counter the threat of new technologies,” Maj Al Alawi said in a speech at DIACC in Dubai.

“This is leading to a fundamental change in warfare.

“The way we fight and win wars must change to keep pace with this abundant threat.

“By developing new methods of computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning algorithms and neural networks, it will enable us to analyse this information across new gateways.

“It will allow us to sift through a huge amount of collective data in seconds, rather than hours and days to confirm a target.

“This will mark a new era of transformational change.”

Updated: November 13, 2021, 12:57 PM