On October 5, the Atlantic Council featured a special Commanders Series event featuring Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, the Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force (RAF). He discussed RAF programs in an age of austerity and stressed the importance of the NATO framework for addressing security challenges in the 21st century.

  With over 8,000 sorties flown by NATO coalition aircraft, air power has played a key role in Operation Unified Protector in Libya. Despite the considerable use of British air power, the next wave of British defense cuts is projected to hit the RAF hardest. The Air Chief Marshal discussed acquisition and modernization programs for the RAF and a shifting focus to remotely piloted vehicles. He stressed that on modern, congested battlefields, connectivity and networks will be crucial to military effectiveness and coordination.  

Sir Steven also discussed the importance of the NATO alliance to the security of the United Kingdom. Particularly in difficult financial times, he argued, alliances and coordination have become necessary as NATO provides a crucially important framework for responding to unexpected international crises, such as recent events in Libya. Under this framework, allies coordinated their efforts for a timely and effective response, and were able to include non-NATO members to support Operation Unified Protector as well.  

Sir Steven joined the RAF in 1973, and is a Jaguar and Tornado pilot by trade. In the 1990s, he was a squadron commander, commanding British forces under Operation Jural, the UK’s contribution to Operation Southern Watch over Iraq. He also served as the director of the UK Typhoon (Eurofighter) program, and as the Director of Air Operations in the Ministry of Defense. Sir Stephen was promoted to Air Chief Marshal and appointed as the Chief of the Air Staff in 2009.   

Commanders Series Discussions:

This Commanders Series event is generously supported by Saab AB