NATO Defence Research Group (DRG)

The NATO Defence Research Group (DRG) was formed in 1967 and was one of seven "Main Groups" which reported to the Conference of  National Armaments Directors  CNAD . Its primary purpose was to foster cooperation on research and new technology which could lead to future defence equipment.The work of the DRG was organized under its 8 Panels and 2 Special Groups of Experts (SGEs). Each of these groups was responsible for establishing cooperative research projects, which were carried out by national experts in Research Study Groups (RSGs). The activities of the RSGs may include collaborative research via joint experiments or studies; the development of testbeds, prototypes or computer models; cooperative field trials for data collection or prototype validation; or exchange of technical knowledge through workshops and symposia.



It all began in Paris at a meeting of  NATO Heads of Government in December 1957. The successful launching of Sputnik1 sharpened awareness of the urgent need to make more effective use of the Alliance's scientific and technological resources.

Sputnik1Sputnik 1, launched on Oct.4, 1957, became the first artificial satellite to successfully orbit the Earth. It was a metallic sphere about 2 feet across, weighing 84 kg, with long "whiskers" pointing to one side, and stayed in orbit for 6 months before falling back to Earth. The second Sputnik satellite was launched several weeks later on Nov 3, 1957.

The Heads of Government, stressing their wish to improve corporate effectiveness in the area of the Alliance's scientific and technological resources, established the NATO Science Committee and the joint post of Science Advisor to the Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General for Scientific Affairs. The Science Committee  (first meeting 29-29 march 1958)  was formed with the expectation that its work would concern both the civil and military applications of science.

In practice however, the Committee placed more emphasis on scientific education than on military technology . Matters relating to the defence application of science were brought to the attention of the Science Committee through annual meetings of National Defence Research Directors.

The period 1957 to 1966 was characterised by continuous fierce discussion on how best to organize NATO's research, development and production resources for maximum mutual benefit.

Chairman of Defense Research Director 28th September 1959At this time, the NATO Military Authorities had a major leadership role in the development of NATO Basic Military Requirements (NBMRs) and their implementation through the Armaments Committee. They felt the need for information and advice on future scientific and technology capabilities to properly discharge their function. NATO's scientific expertise was represented in the Science Committee, but those elements related to defence were derogated to the Defence Research Directors, who also had responsibilities for development and production.

In 1960, the Military Committee tasked a committee under the Chairmanship of  Dr. von Kármán (the founder of AGARD) to  "...develop an estimate of the possible and probable scientific progress to be expected in the next decade .... ". The Von Karman report in 1961, prepared largely by staffs loaned by the National Defence Research Directors, marked the first multi-national attempted to estimate the impact of scientific and technological advances on military capability. It was the first of what became known as the Long-Term Scientific Studies (LTSS).

By 1965 it was clear that NBMR procedures for armaments cooperation were not working well. Scientific input was inadequately coordinated and little progress had been made on cooperative projects. Nations were impatient for improvement. In 1966 the Council approved organizational changes which created the Conference of National Arrnaments Directors (CNAD). It also redefined the role of the NATO Military Authorities and firmly established responsibility for the military application of science and technology with the Defence Research Group under the CNAD. Thus, while not in exact correlation, the Committee of  Research Directors became the CNAD, and its Sub Committee on Research and Development became the Defence Research Group.

Under the new CNAD, the three Main Armaments Groups were set up to promote cooperation on weapon systems and equipments for the Navies Armies and Air forces. The DRG was viewed as an organisation which would augment the efforts of the Main Armaments Groups and also facilitate the joint application of scientific and technical advances in all NATO nations. Close links were to be maintained with the NATO Military Authorities and the NATO Science Committee who would attend all DRG meetings. This arrangement has remaineded unchanged for at least 30 years.

DRG Organisation

Following its inaugural meeting, the DRG proceeded to organize ongoing and new scientific work under a series of Panels and Special Groups ofexperts (SGE). The DRG itself comprises Research Directors with responsibility for national defence research. The  8 Panels and the 2 SGEs consisted of national laboratory directors and high level defence technology administrators. They guide and monitor the international collaborative research activities carried out by working level scientists and engineers in about 50 Research Study Groups (RSGs). The three primary methods of scientific cooperation were through:

Exchange of technical knowledge

This took place relatively formally in experts meetings, seminars, symposia, workshops and of course by the publication of technical reports and proceedings. Less formally however, much information was exchanged through the international "network" of government experts which had grown up within the NATO defence research community.

Collaborative Research

Researchers contribute national data for analysis and the production of harmonised paper studies.

Joint Experiments and / or Field Trials.

Nations contribute manpower, equipment, platforms, targets and facilities and share resulting data.

Over the years the DRG has fostered a very effective environment for collaborative defence research. A pre-arranged 'legal ' structure and a minimised bureaucracy enable research projects to be set up relatively quickly without protracted negotiation of MOU’s. The DRG provides a unique transatlantic forum for the pursuit of classified defence related government research. This focuses on the earliest phases of equipment life cycles when technology has its greatest influence on future design, and the exchange of scientific and technology information between governments can be most beneficial. Achieving success and influencing development becomes increasingly more difficult as programmes progress and funding requirements

The organization of the DRG has stood the test of time and its structure has changed little since the early days. Recent years had seen a move to firmer management and guidance of Panels and Groups by the DRG as nations attempt to focus their declining defence resources into priority areas. The maintenance of a close relationship with Main Armaments Groups and other NATO scientific bodies AGARD, STC (now part of  the NC3A), SACLANTCEN has always been important but were  thriving on a more formalised basis organised by the International Staff.

One vital, but sometimes overlooked feature of the DRG work programme was that it was decided by the nations alone. Requests, advice and encouragement may come from the MNC’s and other NATO bodies, but final decisions on commitment of resources rest with the nations, through their

DRG representatives. 1987 and 1988 saw the introduction of a periodic "DRG Information " newsletter and the "DRG Handbook" describing DRG policy and procedures, which supplement existing reference documents for the DRG community. These small, but important steps have encouraged better understanding, application and communication of policy, procedures and organization amongst the Defence Research Community. Improvements in DRG document distribution were also introduced in 1990 although there were still some shortcomings in national data dissemination.

DRG Achievements

Exchange of Technical Knowledge

A well-known method for exchange of knowledge was through the Long- Term Scientific Studies (LTSS). In these studies scientific and operational experts from the nations and NATO pool their expertise in Multi-National Exercises (MNE) and produce coordinated study reports.

LTSSs were conducted under Panel I whose initial task was to update the Von Kármán LTSSs and then to initiate a range of studies in other important areas of military interest Following the 26 subjects studied under Von Kármán between 1961 and 1965, Panel 1 has completed a further 49 LTSSs since 1967. Mostwell known among these were the Land Operations 2000 (LO 12000) in 1983 and the Maritime Operations 2005 (M0/2005) Study series in 1988. Both of these study series identified technological developments to be expected over a 20 year timeframe, which could affect a wide scope of military functions on the land and maritime battlefields.

Collaborative Research

Collaborative research covers the full range of technology areas under the DRG, and has resulted in the publication of approximately 400 technical reports. A typical research example for instance was the development of the NATO Infrared Air Target model (NIRATAM). The capability to predict characteristics of air targets and background radiation was essential in air veliicle design and development, studies ofthe effectiveness of IR guided missiles and development and assessment of IR counter-measures. More than 30 years ago nations, together with  STC, decided to pool their collective expertise to develop a common model. A "closed" studygroup (RSG.6) was formed under Panel 4. Over the years national and cooperative aircraft trials have been conducted and a library of signatures compiled. The NIRATAM model was then developed andvalidated against practical measurements and was now utilised by all participating nations.

Field trials

Field trials have been conducted on numerous topics and technologies over the years, including such diverse examples as radar camouflage, ocean wave measurements and infra-red signatures ofarmoured vehicles. Significant trials were carried out at a rate of 2 to 4 per year with an aggregate investment for each trial of some 5 to 20 million dollars. These trials typically involve a large number of experts from several nations, who conduct a joint measurement campaign using common test facilities or ranges, and common targets, support materiel and equipment. The cost savings achieved by sharing these resources can be very substantial. In addition, the nations normally pool the data from their national sensors, resulting in an additional value-multiplying factor. A good example of a field trial was one conducted by Panel l0 / RSG 12 on "Non-Cooperative Aircraft Identification". This involved 8 nations, plus the SHAPE Technical Centre (STC), and took place in Southern Germany.

Radar signature measurements were taken of 23 different aircraft targets flown by 5 different nations using various types of radar systems operating at several frequencies. Approximately 100 military and technical people were involved in this highly successful trial.

Field trials carried out under the DRG were conducted on a voluntary basis under a "closed" status. This provides better protection of sensitive information and enhances the freedom to exchange it. Resources were pooled among the nations, but there was no joint funding and thus no requirement for Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). These arrangements greatly simplify the planning of trials, while allowing considerable freedom in their implementation.

Smaller Nations

For the smaller nations of the Alliance, international cooperation has become an important element in their national strategies for defence research, with the DRG providing the framework. The importance of this international component tends to vary inversely with the size of the nation. But in some nations, up to 50% of the defence research establishment's budgets were spent in support of international collaborative research; this provides access to research results created by total funds up to five times their own national inputs. Such were the benefits achieved that these nations have adapted their approach to the cooperative environment and have, to a considerable extent, become dependent upon it. The development of self-protection measures for fighter aircraft against radar homing missiles provides a classic example of collaborative defence research involving some smaller nations. Models for countermeasure techniques and tactics were produced in the 1980s, and were tested against aircraft in a series of  Joint trials sponsored by DRG Panel 9 and NAFAG Air Group III. Models were refined, equipment was acquired and tactics were developed which, in Denmark, for example, cost only 25% of other available solutions. Although all nations benefit from collaboration in the DRG, the smaller nations do enjoy a net inflow of scientific and technological information. The exchange process was nevertheless two way. Smaller nations make a unique contribution in certain specialised technology areas and in providing a catalytic function for worthwhile cooperation in other more diffuse areas.

Use to NATO

International defence research cooperation under the DRG was characterised by unfunded and voluntary exchange of knowledge under conditions of mutual trust and confidence. It was governed by rules and conventions mutually agreed which have remained Virtually unchanged  for over 30 years. Unfortunately, meaningful quantitative measurement of achievement was virtually impossible and qualitative measurements were inevitably judgemental. The following points offer some assessment of the benefits enjoyed by this unique forum:

Because most collaborative programmes involve very little added expenditure for nations, they were not constrained by expectations of specific returns from national investment; the free exchange of scientific knowledge was thereby enhanced.

Information or knowledge exchange had a pervasive influence within the NATO scientific community. It may have had, especially in the smaller countries, a subtle or even a direct effect on national research or development programmes.

There was also a "networking" effect of knowledge sharing which worked well at all levels in the DRG community .

Scientific studies and reports did not usually lead to NATO cooperative programmes, but they frequently stimulated bilateral contacts and direct scientific cooperation between national laboratories-Although not the main objective of the DRG, the initiation of more formal joint funded programmesb did sometimes occur. Four such programmes had been initiated under the DRG. These were the Azores Fixed Acoustic Range (AFAR) , the European Wind Tunnel (ETW) , the Demonstration of Advanced Radar Technologies (DART) Programme, and the Data Fusion Demonstrator (DFD) Programme which  began its 5 year schedule way back in 1992, following signature of the MOU.

It all ended in Paris

The heads of the DRG Support Group in Brussels and the Directors of AGARD in Paris realised from the beginning that coordination was essential, even though their mode of operation was different. So the two groups had intensive contacts and made sure that their activities were complementary and duplication of effort was avoided. Through this coordination several joint activities took place which led to very positive results for the NATO nations in the area of research and development. The joint conferences on subjects like the goals and the management of research often seemed non-committal, but in the final analysis the contacts made during those conferences and the proceedings were important in developing a common understanding. Through those efforts the NATO community was continuously strengthened.

The political events of 1989 and the following years, during which the relations between the NATO countries and the (now former) Warsaw Pact countries rapidly improved, was a reason for the NATO Council to examine the structure of its organization. Elements of this process were the research and technology agencies and organizations of  NATO. It seemed natural to join the AGARD organization and DRG into one organization, and in 1996 the two organizations were joined into the new NATO Research and Technology Organisation (RTO).

In April 1997 the new RTO organised an AGARD Conference on "Future Aerospace Technology in the Service of the Alliance" at Paris. 

Mr Xavier SolanaSecretary-General of NATO officially announced the absorption of DRG and AGARD into the new organization.
Dr.J.Solana, Secretary General of NATO, attended this last session, at which many former Chairmen and Directors were presented to the audience and thanked for their many contributions over the years. He then expressed his appreciation to Dr Theodore von Kármán for having had the imagination to create AGARD 45 years earlier and having assisted in creating DRG some years later.