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How could Technology Development Transform the Future Operational Environment

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System Analysis and Studies

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Capability, Disruptive, Emerging, Foresight, Future, Operational, Technology


We are in a time of rapid technology development. Technological leaps like Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) or quantum computers may be, if not around the corner, possible within the next 20 or so years, i.e. within the long-term defence planning perspective. The promises (and fears) of full autonomy both for civil and military applications as well as the developments in synthetic biology and other technology areas mean that both civil society and military organizations may stand before enormous challenges within the next few decades. Many nations as well as organizations like NATO and EDA are trying to understand the potential of the ongoing developments in technology and identify the game changing technologies (Game changing technologies are defined as technological developments that significantly alters the conduct of conflict, forces the adaptation of planning processes and changes long-term goals, strategies, concepts and plans.) that could become available in the future. Areas like AI and autonomy are analysed from their potential to increase existing capabilities or to shape new capabilities. A number of other technology areas such as advanced materials, energy, biotechnology and sensors promise applications that may benefit both civil society and military organizations, but may also in part be controversial. NATO needs to exploit the opportunities made possible by technology development to meet future operational challenges and threats in order to improve both effect and force protection. Considering the various emerging conventional and unconventional threats against NATO, which will also exploit the new technological opportunities, the future paradigm for mission effectiveness, force protection, survival and conventional tactics must evolve to respond to new technological developments and be able to counter these threats.


The objectives of the activity is to explore the possible consequences of potentially game changing technology development on the future operational environment (FOE) in the 2040 to 2050 perspective and to better understand how to identify potentially game changing technology in the future. This would advise decision makers on where to initiate changes in military capability development (using the DOTMLPFI framework) and how to direct investment in technology and capability development. The work will build upon existing analyses of technology and strategic trends, including identified science and technologies of interest from each of the member nations. The expected activities are: • Identify potentially game changing technologies (from existing technology reviews from STO and others). o List and short description of game changing technologies o Reasoning behind the selection of the game changers o What can be learnt from other technologies, sectors, and recent history • Collect and if necessary adapt descriptions of future vignettes. • Insert the technologies into existing descriptions of future vignettes. o How would game changing technologies impact each of the Tier12 Capability Hierarchy partitions? - Worst case – Threats - Best case – Opportunities - Most likely/desirable • Analyse how this will drive changes in DOTMLPFI o Which are the choices for development of DOTMLPFI? From the analysis on FOE/DOTMLPFI we can identify drivers influencing game changing technology development and implementation, for example: • inflection points in technology research, development, implementation and uptake • generic and specific recipes for disruption • how we can best use this for our military objectives (tactical, operational and strategic) The work will partly be undertaken through workshops. The expected deliverables are: • A consolidated list of game changing technologies and the rationale for the selection within the second year • Final report describing drivers of change in DOTMLPFI elements in the 2040-2050 time frame.


The emphasis of this activity will be on strategic analysis relating to future warfare, particularly applied to the use of game changing technologies. This will be done through research, case studies, historical analysis, scenario and vignette analysis and decision support. Further methods for scenario and vignette analysis could be explored as part of the activity.

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