Western militaries face a serious challenge. Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine continues with few signs of any respite, and its defence industry has turned a corner, settling belatedly onto a war footing with production rising sharply during 2023. Meanwhile, Western arsenals have been seriously depleted by donations of equipment to Ukraine. Investments in armament production capacity have not yet been made at a sufficient scale to render support to Ukraine sustainable in the longer term, or to replenish Western stockpiles. China’s People’s Liberation Army also continues to improve the quality and quantities of its military equipment in all three domains at a blistering pace, posing an increasingly serious threat to US Air Force and US Navy bases and high-value assets even at long distances from the Chinese mainland. As such, ever more US military capacity is concentrated in the Indo-Pacific, leaving European countries to shoulder a greater proportion of the deterrence and defence responsibility against Russia.
Without the demographics or budgets to expand land forces enough to credibly deter what looks set to be a heavily rearmed and battle-hardened Russian army in the late 2020s, ensuring the ability to win air superiority is a prerequisite for maintaining NATO’s deterrent posture in Europe. For many air forces, this will require significant changes to the deployment, sustainment, munitions and training postures that have characterised much of the post-Cold War era. Budgets remain tight in most countries across Europe, and even in the US, hard capability choices have been forced on senior leaders and operational commanders alike. However, since the Western way of war depends on air superiority for the formidable ISR and firepower coverage it can provide to the joint force, air forces must close the gap.
- Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard Knighton, Chief of the Air Staff, Royal Air Force
- Lt Gen André ‘Jabba’ Steur, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force
- Maj Gen Jonas Wikman, Chief of the Swedish Air Force
- Maj Gen Cezary Wiśniewski, Deputy General Commander, Polish Armed Forces
- Maj Gen Vincent Chusseau, Chief of Capability Development, French Air Force
- Col Søren Andersen, Director of Operations, Royal Danish Air Force
- Lt Col Jan Bjurström, Deputy Commander, Finnish Air Force Air Operations Centre
- Dr Jack Watling, Senior Research Fellow for Land Warfare, RUSI
- Professor Justin Bronk, Senior Research Fellow for Airpower, RUSI
Who Should Attend and Why
This conference will bring together senior air force leaders, alongside policymakers and experts from the industry and think tanks, to discuss and debate optimal paths for the future. As an independent voice, RUSI offers a neutral and critical space to have these vital discussions, and provides for other members of the air power community to engage openly as an audience. Many countries – including the UK – are looking towards another round of defence reviews, with ever more being asked of force planners and budget-holders in the face of a deteriorating security outlook. Therefore, these timely discussions will help generate mutual understanding and ideas for how NATO countries can meet their defence and deterrence needs together.
This is an in-person only conference taking place at RUSI, 61 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2ET. Lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day for delegates.
Conference ticket prices from £175 + VAT, with member discounts and military concessions available.