The RAF is currently having to operate in increasingly contested and hostile environments. To remain successful, and ahead of its enemies, the modern Royal Air Force relies on a complex network of actors and technological support systems. In line with this, many commentators now see this ‘network’ as the defining control on the development of the RAF over the next decade.
Lt Gen (Retd) Sir Graeme Lamb recently spoke of the importance to the military of the partnerships that have developed between defence and commercial organisations since the turn of the century. This growing relationship has been described as a ‘pivotal moment’ in modern warfare, a ‘paradigm shift’ of sorts.
By working with novel partners and organisations, it is believed that the military will be better able to tackle issues as they develop, rather than having to rely on the success of their reactionary procedures and operations.
An example of this has been seen with the integration of 3D printing technologies into the service for on-field repairs and maintenance. Historically, the Royal Air Force has had to rely on complex procurement and supply chains that have limited the service’s ability to react quickly to mission variables and scenario changes. There are time-delays that are unavoidable through this system, no matter how efficiently and effectively it is working.
3D printing technologies provide a direct and appropriate solution to this issue. As long as the necessary blue-prints are available, 3D printers allow mechanics to print machine parts and products on-site, enabling faster access to replacement pieces, and related maintenance.
Of course, the technology is still limited in what it can produce. However, for the RAF to fully integrate these technologies into operational practices, they need to partner with leading technology and training organisations within the 3D printing sector.
Modern discourses center around the idea that it is not about how the military uses a technology to deal with a situation in isolation, it is about how you partner and incorporate said technologies into operational practices and development more broadly, as highlighted above. There needs to be a flexible approach to these partnerships to ensure that the RAF has access to the latest and best-performing technologies on the market.
In line with this, Challenge Advisory, in partnership with the RAF and MOD, have developed the RAF100 Event. The RAF Executive Board will invite 100 companies to Britain’s Royal Air Force Museum to demonstrate their services and technologies to the MOD board, heads of departments, procurement teams, service personnel and the future of the RAF itself – STEM students from across the UK.
Handpicked from across the globe, these organisations will collaborate their respective capabilities to deliver their demonstrable solutions across manufacturing, design & innovation, showcasing their newest technologies and relevance to the future of the next generation Royal Air Force.
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