RAAF Air Commodore Stephen Edgeley on Regional Airpower Collaboration

By Airpower Development Centre

RAAF Air Commodore Stephen Edgeley spoke recently to the virtual RAAF Airpower Conference on the Indo-Pacific Region. Originally, the conference was to be held in March 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

But the RAAF’s Airpower Development Centre has moved ahead with a virtual conference, consisting of the core presentations which would have been given in person.

In his presentation, Air Commodore Edgeley provided an interesting perspective on how a modern air force can work effectively with partners who do not have equivalent airpower capabilities, but with an effective regional collaborative framework can work more effectively together.

Edgeley noted: “To be blunt, air power for security purposes is simply too expensive for the majority of our Pacific partners, who’s limited resources need to be prioritised on essential areas of national development.

“Even a basic scaled down version of our traditional Air Force model would be beyond the reach of our Pacific partners.

“While they may be able to afford a number of aviation platforms, the cost of building a security capability that includes training, operating, maintenance, safety and logistics very quickly becomes prohibitively expensive, and as our shared international experience shows, you can’t maintain an aviation capability efficiently and safely without ensuring you have the basic building blocks to support it.

“So if the traditional Air Force model doesn’t match the resources available to our Pacific partners, then what other options could they consider to achieve the security effect required?”

Air Commodore Edgeley provides his answer in his presentation which can be viewed in the video below or read in the transcript of his remarks.

His focus was on the Pacific Islands and shaping a role for collaboration in leveraging airpower to provide for enhanced HADR support but could apply as well to other cases of collaboration, such as counter-terrorism or more threatening contingencies as well.


Notably, at last year’s International Fighter Conference held in Berlin, the presentation by the Malaysian Air Chief provides an example as well of how enhanced regional collaboration with Australia might be able to operate in ways were a more capable air force could work synergistically with a regional partner without the same range of capability or as advanced in air power terms.

The key point there is working wave forms which provide for integratability can expand the range of operations with which partners can do together.

Taken together the Australian and Malaysian perspectives suggest that when focusing on collaborative crisis management, shaping the tools to work together do not simply depend upon the platforms considered, but the tool sets which are developed prior to any crisis.

See, the following:

Airpower When Directly Faced with the Authoritarian Powers: The International Fighter Conference 2019