Command-and-control issues are one of the main areas where the United Arab Emirates is drawing lessons from its first out-of-area combat deployment, when it provided Dassault Mirage 2000-9s and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60s to participate in the NATO-led missions over Libya.
One lesson is the need for “procurement of air and ground communication systems to integrate into various command-and-control nodes,” says Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Naser Al Alawi, deputy commander of the UAE air force and air defense.
Around 800 combat missions were flown by the UAE, with the force returning Nov. 2.
Lessons will cover equipment, training, and how to work with allies, Al Alawi said during the Dubai International Air Chiefs conference.
There were issues for a non-NATO member to participate in the operation, he acknowledges. “Interoperability was a show stopper in the beginning,” he notes.
The situation delayed the UAE’s forces being able to participate. Al Alawi says the air force could have started flying two days after its aircraft arrived in Italy, but notes that “not being familiar with the NATO process and their regulations, it was delayed a couple of days before we could fly our first mission.”
The experience highlighted the need for having exchange officers and the utility of participating in in exercises with NATO members. Al Alawi says involvement in Red Flag and other exercises “was a big asset" to help integrate into the war.
He also says “further integration and interoperability will require increased information and technology sharing.”
The command-and-control issues were also highlighted by Royal Air Force ACM Stephen Dalton, the service chief. But he adds that mission planning “was sometimes disjointed” and that differences in access to sensitive information slowed post-mission data-sharing.
The goal now is to figure out “how we can develop our ability to network more effectively in the future,” he says, but in terms of training and equipment. “It is possible to do firewalls and gateways at agreed levels of classification,” he insists. But there is a need for all alliance members to procure equipment that is compliant with common standards.