Climate change threatens to disrupt the operations of national air forces and the industry must address the issue of sustainability in order to limit the impact of a warming planet, said Hon Group Captain Kevin W Billings, of the Royal Air Force’s Global Air Forces Climate Change Collaboration.

Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow, he said: “It’s actually very important because hotter air and more humid air is less dense air, that is pure physics. And it means there is less lift so that you will have to use more power to take the same amount of combat capability.

“It adds risk to planning scenarios and it stresses engines because again, the thinner the air the harder the engines have to work, and all of these things add risk to an already risky situation.”

International collaboration

Billings, a member of the 601 (County of London) Squadron RAuxAF, was appointed by President George W Bush to serve as an Assistant Secretary of the United States Air Force.

Through his role with the Global Air Forces Climate Change Collaboration, 50 countries have become involved in helping to address the issue.

Risk factors

Giving real-world examples of where operations have been affected, he said: “We saw that in Iraq in 2011 and also in Libya, you have to require more sorties. Because of the heat, you have to bring in more tankers to be able to deliver the same effects, as if the air was cooler, you would have been able to do that with less firepower.

“Not only is it about the physics of delivering capability, when you look at mass migration, you look at sea level rise all of those things, great risk parameters for militaries that create potential for wars, and we don’t want to get into a war.”
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