Electronic Warfare GCC 2014 – Conference Chairmans Report

17 – 19 November 2014 |  Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Tangent Link’s fourth Electronic Warfare Conference in support of the UAE EW Command in Abu Dhabi (17-19 November) has reached new heights with the six Gulf Co-operative Council nations joined by a further fourteen countries (Jordan attending and presenting for the first time) with delegates in excess of 350. The impressive marbled Abu Mousa Hall in the Officers Club was packed with 27 Exhibitors with business evidently brisk.

Against this background, Senior Scientists of Elettronica Spa of Italy, Thales (UK) Head of Strategy and CSIR of South Africa, held popular Workshops as a lead in to two days of Conference Presentations.

Filling the well-appointed Al Jaheli Theatre with Delegates and younger EW officers, Staff Brigadier General Hamad J Al- Neyadi, Commander of EW Command, welcomed attendees with a ringing endorsement of the event format for the invaluable networking and business opportunities.

Former Air Vice Marshal (UK) Chris Bushell, with Integrated Project Team Leadership of EW, and Typhoon introduction to his credit, gave a comprehensive overview of the impact of world events influencing EW today. As befits the SVP Electronic Warfare for Selex ES, he identified the often hard to detect opportunities’ which arise through enforced change’. High on his forecast was a Spectrum of Collaboration, both between nations with shared objectives, and alliances between companies, with the common ingredient of Trust essential in the sensitive sovereign capability of Electronic Warfare.

Complimenting this Keynote, was Commander Dave Hewitt RN, Officer Commanding Executive Wing of the Joint EW Operational Support Centre (JEWOSC UK). Widely regarded as the most experienced EW operator of his generation, he gave a master class on the Electromagnetic Operating Environment. Pulling no punches on the impact of the absence of an EW Champion’ in recent years, his cup was nevertheless half full’ as he described Defence Lines of Development and a fresh oversight in Joint operations delivering an operating coherence which extends beyond IO and ISR to Cyber and directed energy weapons. He had warnings, nevertheless, for those who sought to dominate the Battlespace in combined operations, leaving smaller partners behind in Situational Awareness, with the potential for Blue on Blue engagements. His impact was evident in the demand, in the margins, for his further advice, and his presentation, available on the Tangent Link secure portal for those attending the event, will be widely studied.

Following a lead in by Ufuk Kazak, Head of EW Systems for Aselsan (Turkey) on EW Spectrum Management, Awareness and Protection, and Barry Trimmer, VP (Technical) ISR for the Thales Group on EW Against Non- Traditional Threats, Commander Hewitt’s forecast of Strategic Partnerships with Defence Companies was evident in an equally stimulating presentation by Selex ES Operational Support Capability Manager, Wynne Davies. He was a forerunner of hugely experienced ex-Military experts moving to industry, underlying this increasing reinforcement of industrial partnerships.

Day Two had a somewhat different flavour with sessions as varied as Multinational Operations, Cyber Warfare and Test, Evaluation & Training. Squadron Leader Fernando Gonzalez ADF presented an Australian Perspective from the viewpoint of his Presidency of the Australian Chapter of the AOC. Multinational Operations with (South East Asia) partners, presents both language and cultural challenges, met in large part by Interoperability and Commonality.

Representing Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman’s joint enterprise in the E2D, Rear Admiral James Murdoch and Tom Trudell echoed this theme with encouragement to make every platform part of the EW network where, as with this most advanced and desirable AEW & C capability, Electronic Warfare was an important adjunct – passive ESM providing a building block to Situational Awareness.

Didier Boyet brought his Communications Intelligence and Electronic Warfare business segment, within Thales (France) Communications and & Security, to bear on countering the proliferation of micro and small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS), providing a capability for Ground Based Air Defence against Low, Slow and Small RCS (LSS) targets to defeat this growing threat.

There was a distinct change of emphasis in the Cyber Warfare Session set by Dr Saud Al Junaibi of the civil National Electronic Security Authority, emphasizing the National lead in Critical Information Infrastructure protection. With the UAE already a commendable 25th of 144 on the National Readiness Index, a National Cyber Security Strategy is in place to: Prepare and Prevent; Respond and Recover; build a national capability; foster collaboration and provide National Leadership.

Graziano Lubello-Lincenti of Electtronic meanwhile addressed the Fifth Domain’ of Cyberspace and highlighted the vulnerability of our more widely used wireless communications, which themselves make use of the Electromagnetic Spectrum, a resource that is by its very nature open and not physically protected.

This invaluable learning session was brought into Electronic Warfare focus by Nigel Jones, Senior Research Fellow at Cranfield University (UK), who contended that Cyber was not the exclusive preserve of EW, posing the question who has ownership? The answer will inevitably follow the money’.
Erlank Pienaar, a previous presenter at EW GCC, brought the Conference back to the core knowledge component of Defence Research and Development, Test and Evaluation and Training Capabilities. He is Manager of the Radar and Electronic Warfare Group at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), “hard at work for a peaceful, safe and prosperous South Africa’”. A positive note on which to end a stimulating and informative event.

The mutual benefits of Conference Sponsorship packages was evident in the additional exposure available to Elettronica (Platinum Sponsor), Thales (Principal) and Aselsan, Lockheed Martin and Selex ES (Associates). The Thales sponsored outdoor evening function attended by more than 170 Delegates was a perfect occasion for reinforcing relationships and in Tangent Link terms “Connecting Business”. Happily this coincided with the 44th Anniversary of the present Omani Sultanate which was celebrated in some style.

EW Command already envisages a fifth Conference on a similar scale, underscoring an event which was professionally rewarding and personally enjoyable.

Terry Loughran
Rear Admiral CB FRAeS
Conference Chairman
19 November 2014