Foredrag: Future Technology and the Impact for Defence Planning



 Dr Andrew Tyler CBE FREng

Northrop Grumman, Chief Executive Europe


Following a career in oil and gas, commercial maritime, and environment, Andrew Tyler moved into the defence sector in 2001 leading BMT Defence Services, a world-leading naval engineering and technology business involved amongst other things in the design of the UK’s aircraft carrier, support of the nuclear submarine flotilla, international frigate designs (including Norway), and design of the new Aegir fleet tankers under construction for the UK Navy. In 2006 he joined the UK Ministry of Defence in the acquisition organisation, Defence Equipment and Support. In 2008 he became Chief Operating Officer with a $24Bn annual budget covering the whole portfolio of UK military procurement and support including equipping the Afghanistan campaign. In 2011 Andrew left MOD and after a period in the marine renewable energy sector, he was appointed Chief Executive Europe for Northrop Grumman with responsibility for NG’s $1.5Bn European business that includes delivering NATO’s new Global Hawks, support prime for the UK’s AWACS fleet, and numerous other land, air, and maritime programmes across Europe.


The last year was perhaps one of the most remarkable years in terms of the diversity and speed of change in the threat landscape for Western nations. No-one could have foreseen the rise of ISIS (the response to which even saw Iranian jets targeting the same targets as US jets), the re-emergence of Russian expansionism, a lost civilian airliner, terrorist attacks in major European cities, a major epidemic in Africa, several major cyber-attacks on governments and industry, and repeated large-scale refugee shipments in the Mediterranean. Faced with such a bewildering array of threats and with no reasonable knowledge of what will come next, how does any nation or coalition of nations (NATO) decide how to invest its scarce resources to best protect its’ citizens, homeland, and allies?

Almost exactly 100 years ago there was a ‘horse and tank’ moment, when it became clear that new technologies were making the methods of warfare of the past redundant. Today we are having another ‘horse and tank’ moment although this time it is much more complex. In the past fifteen years we have seen an extraordinary dawn of a number of transformational technologies that have proven their supremacy as battle-winning capabilities. Such capabilities include autonomous systems (especially unmanned air systems), high precision tuneable munitions, unparalleled airborne sensors for intelligence gathering, high bandwidth networking and communications (largely pulling through from the civil sector), and cyber-attack as a new weapon. While these capabilities have been introduced into defence and security inventories, the less effective capabilities they have superseded remain. It is little wonder that, regardless of the economic situation, defence budgets are under such pressure and defence planners are finding it so challenging when faced with both the threat landscape dynamics and the proliferation of means to defeat those threats.

While there is probably a good argument for European nations to increase defence spending, and indeed such a commitment has been made at the recent NATO Summit, this alone will not aid the defence planner in trying to spend precious resources to achieve maximum effect. The answer lies in two words: ‘agility’ and ‘effect’. We tend these days to talk about capabilities rather than equipment, conceding the key inputs of manpower, infrastructure training and so on, but we should be moving beyond considering ‘capabilities’ in our defence planning. We should be moving to effects-based planning. Effects-based planning looks at the ultimate defence and security effect that is desired and then, in the context of that threat, determines the most effective way of delivering the effect. As an example, many times in recent decades the response to an adversary has been the use of air strikes. It is probably fair to say that the effect of these airstrikes has been variable, and while delivering some military utility, it has often had unintended consequences (such as civilian casualties) that have only served to make a security situation worse.

By contrast let us look at the case of Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his people. The effect desired was for him to stop using these unacceptable and indiscriminate means of force. Instead of air strikes on his chemical weapons facilities, the response was to use air (and probably other) intelligence gathering techniques to provide incontrovertible evidence sufficient to build international pressure that eventually resulted in dismantling of his chemical weapons capability. This might be called ‘21st century deterrence’; the use of highly advanced sensor systems – including space-borne, airborne and others – to gather temporal and spatial information that provides an extraordinary and undeniable picture of what is going on, often without even entering the airspace of the country concerned and certainly without the risk to one’s own forces. The sort of airborne assets used to gather this intelligence have very broad utility. They can be surveilling the unwarranted incursion of a foreign country into a friendly nation one day, and then covering the location of a major humanitarian disaster the next. It is assets like these that provide new ways of defeating old threats while at the same time providing great utility against a wide range of threats.
This brings us to ‘agility’. 2014 illustrated the difficulty in predicting the nature, scale, and geography of the defence and security threats we face; no-one could have predicted what transpired during that year. So it would be foolhardy to try and forecast what might happen in the year to come and beyond. This leaves the defence planner with a dilemma. Building a plan on such uncertainty is extremely difficult and almost certain to be wrong. Even scenario-based planning would be defeated by the range of threat scenarios. Instead the defence planner needs to consider agility as a primary objective; the ability to utilise resources in the most flexible manner possible. Those capabilities that are likely to be most valuable are the ones that can provide utility in the widest range of scenarios. Such a perspective applied across the defence and security capability spectrum readily identifies those capabilities that have application in only a narrow set of circumstances. Judgements are required as to whether this application is critical – a nuclear-nation might consider their strategic nuclear deterrent in that category – or whether the price paid for this limited utility is outweighed by other capabilities that can offer a much wider application across the threat spectrum such as cyber, air ISR, special forces etc.

Over the decades the nature of warfare has changed radically. Once upon a time we engaged in hand-to-hand centric warfare. This evolved to mounted-centric warfare as vehicles became pervasive. This was followed by stand-off centric warfare as our ability to project force over distance dominated. Today we would appear to be witnessing the rise of intel-centric warfare. In future delivering the effects we desire against the threats we face will rely heavily on intelligence gathering, dissemination, and use through multiple channels ranging from diplomatic to kinetic. The word ‘intelligence’ is being used here in the widest sense covering the whole spectrum of IMINT, SIGINT, ELINT, GEOINT and OSINT. It is through the fusion of these sources, in near real-time that we will be able to provide a timely and high fidelity picture of our threat, whether that be the actions of a monolithic state, or a tiny terrorist cell. The enablers for this intel-centric warfare are already here; our challenge is how to harness them. The first challenge is getting the sensors positioned where you need them. Most obviously increasing the pervasion of space-borne and airborne sensors will greatly increase our ability to see. This will be achieved through satellite programmes, unmanned air systems and new air systems such as F-35. But in the future this will extend across maritime and land domains with unattended sensor networks, and other means of persistent and pervasive intelligence gathering.

The second challenge is networking these sensors to be able to deliver huge quantities of data to where it is required. Here we need to borrow heavily on the commercial networking and communications technologies now in commonplace use by us all – this is not difficult. Lastly we need to be able to find the needles in the fields of haystacks. This is possibly the greatest challenge – the timely processing, exploitation and dissemination of massive quantities of data. The buzzword is ‘big data analytics’; the ability to ingest vast quantities of data and convert it to actionable intelligence. While many sectors are developing big data analytic techniques, few can be as challenged as the defence and security sector whose diversity of data sources, volume of data, and need for high-speed processing to deliver highly time-sensitive intelligence presents an enormous task.

We face a time of major transition in which defence planners need to play a central role in the transformation of defence and security capabilities, taking the tough decisions to respond to a dramatically different threat environment, and to take advantage of new technologies that can revolutionise the way in which we deliver effect. In doing so we will increase our security and reduce the costs in doing so.

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