Interview with Air Commodore Robert Adang, Deputy Director, European Air Group

Interview with Air Commodore Robert Adang, Deputy Director, European Air Group


Commodore Robert Adang was born in the United Kingdom on the 22nd of August 1965, but moved back to The Netherlands with his parents a year later. He started his military career as an Officer Cadet at the Royal Military Academy in Breda, The Netherlands, in 1983. After graduating from the academy he attended helicopter flight school and received his wings in 1988. He was subsequently assigned to 300 Sqn at Deelen Air Base, flying the Alouette III helicopter. In 1989 he transferred to 299 Squadron at the same air base to fly the BO-105CB helicopter, at which he qualified as an instructor pilot in 1991.

After several operational positions, including that of flight commander, he was transferred to the Royal Netherlands Air Force Headquarters in The Hague during late 1996 as part of the Apache project team, participating in the introduction of the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter. In 1997 he transitioned to the Apache himself as a pilot.

Following a deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina as detachment commander he was assigned to 301 Squadron at Gilze-Rijen Air Base in 1999 as Operations Officer. After completion of the Advanced Staff Course he returned to 301 as Squadron Commander, responsible for certification of the unit as part of the 11th Air Maneuver Brigade in 2003.

In 2004 Robert Adang was again transferred to the Air Force Headquarters, as head of the Plans Section. In 2006 he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, as Detachment Commander of a CH-47 Chinook unit in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

From 2007 to 2009 he was assigned to the Defence Staff in The Hague as Head of Helicopter Requirements. In 2008 he was deployed to Uruzgan, Afghanistan, as Commander of the Apache detachment in support of the ISAF.

After a short assignment at the Air Force Headquarters he was promoted to Colonel and transferred to the Integrated Plans branch at the Defence Staff. From 2011 to late 2012 he held the post of Head of the Plans Division, responsible for the coordination and execution of the integrated defence planning process.

In December 2012 he was assigned to the Staff of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Command as head of the Policy and Plans Branch, reporting to the Commander and Deputy Commander Royal Netherlands Air Force. In this capacity he was responsible for a wide range of activities, including strategy, international military cooperation, R&D planning and integrated plans.

In May 2016 Robert Adang was promoted to Commodore and assigned to the European Air Group as Deputy Director, a position that he formally assumed on the 2nd of June 2016.


You will be speaking at The F-35 Conference on the topic of ‘Interoperability in Future Combined Air Operations’. Can you give us a brief insight into the areas you will be covering?

The European Air Group was established in 1995 as an independent cooperation of European air forces. With projects in the areas of operations, force protection, logistics and communication and information systems, the aim of the organization is to provide tangible solutions that will improve interoperability at tactical and operational levels.

In recent years, the focus of the EAG has shifted to interoperability in future combined air operations. Accelerating technological developments have a significant impact on the Airpower domain, leading to new capabilities and operational concepts. Mainly driven by information technologies, operations are increasingly becoming information-centric, with sensors, effectors and command-and-control nodes connected through extensive networks.

An exponent of these developments is the F-35, the first 5th generation fighter to be introduced into the air forces of several EAG nations in the coming years. Integrating the F-35 with existing technologies will present numerous challenges for interoperability amongst EAG nations and their allies. By identifying and engaging these challenges early on, the EAG will provide a basis on which cooperation in future multinational training, exercises and operations can be built.

What can delegates expect to take away from your session?

The key take-away of my presentation is that integrating the F-35 into existing air forces is not business as usual and that multinational interoperability needs to be taken into account from the start.

In about ten years’ time, one out of every five frontline fighters in Europe will be an F-35, but we will need the other four just as much, to be successful in future air operations. That means that we have to find ways to optimally combine the capabilities of the F-35 with existing platforms, both within and between NATO air forces.

The advanced capabilities of the F-35 will require new operational concepts, making interoperability even more important than it is today, but also harder to achieve. In order to effectively engage the interoperability challenges that result from the introduction of the F-35, we have to deal with them upfront, proactively instead of reactively. That requires a sense of urgency and priority within national air forces.

In my presentation, I will explain the way in which we as European Air Group are currently developing a programme to identify future interoperability challenges and to resolve them before they become an obstacle for future combined air operations.

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