The Future Is Now: Transforming Defence
May 15, 2004

The Defence R&D Canada Tiger Team Analysis of Transformation Implications tackled this challenge in its technical report, Transformation Concepts and Technologies (DRDC TR 2004-003, 2004-04-27).

One of the major Science & Tech­nol­ogy (S&T) drivers for defence transformation over the next 5-10 years is the integration of rapidly advancing technologies: networks and communications; information systems; long-range precision capability; sensor technologies; and low observable technologies. Networking, sensor integration, knowledge and understanding will be key components of achieving more effective forces. The human dimension is characterized and shaped by the ever-changing role of the human in command, in complex operational situations and in hostile environments. The national security environment is also changing as the safety and security risks facing modern societies expand with new health hazards, climate change, bio- and cyber- terrorism, and vulnerability of critical infrastructure.

Joint network-enabled concepts of operations are central to the transformation of defence and security organizations. The progress in information and communications technologies coincides with the increasing need for knowledge superiority. Networking of systems will become the dominant factor of future military systems.

The Effects Based Operations (EBO) concept is far broader and more ambitious. EBO envisage coordination of diplomatic, information, military and economic levers. Effects can be physical or cognitive. This involves an understanding and influencing friends’, foes’ and neutrals’ perceptions and behaviour in complex situations.

Full spectrum protection against threats will remain a goal over the next decade. The development of armour and camouflage will depend on new materials research. New fibres (e.g. spider silk produced by DNA modified organisms or nanotube fibre systems) as well as polymeric and ceramic multi-impact resistant materials will be developed. For camouflage and armour, active systems will be developed. The soldier’s suit and the vehicle covering will exhibit chameleon-like properties across the electro-optical spectrum.

The first level of protection against nuclear, biological and chemical threats will be long-range remote agent detection and identification as well as accurate propa­gation prediction models. Reactive neutralizing materials and self-decontaminating surfaces on military platforms will offer the second level of protection. If all else fails, comprehensive personal archival devices will help medical personnel to accurately identify exposure and treatment.

There will be increased emphasis on ‘Footprint Reduction’ to reduce the demand for items, and to enhance the ‘potency’ of the commodities, such that more value is provided per unit. Emerging materials will provide many technological solutions to reduce operational sustainment with reduced “footprint.” New protective clothing as well as equipment components, coatings and lubricants can reduce maintenance, transportation and power requirements. Other innovations include embedded sensors and bar-coded materiel to improve ammunition and spares management in the same way that commercial checkout counters automatically re-order stock for items that are being purchased or drawn down – allowing the CF to adopt “just in time” re-supply options.

In the mid- to long- term (say, from 5 to 30 years hence) we can expect to see progressively more Autonomous Intelli­gent System (AIS) capabilities, ranging from ­single, independently-operating robotic platform, to many interacting, sharing, cooperating and collaborating robotic platforms. In an urban scenario, for example, multi-robot teams (10’s-100’s) could simultaneously invade urban buildings from rooftops, from ground level, and from subterranean level.

We may see increased use of Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) to incapacitate while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury and undesired damage to property and the environment. NLW mechanical and kinetic technologies (e.g. barriers, entanglements, and blunt impact) are well developed. Directed energy (e.g. electromagnetic and acoustic) and chemical technologies, on the other hand, have greater growth potential. Whether such developments will still permit a genuine ‘non-lethal’ tag to be applied to weapons that incorporate such technologies is questionable.

A wide range of Micro-Electronic Mechanical Systems (MEMS) will be available within 10 years, incorporating various sensors, actuators, transmitters and power sources on a single chip. A field of small, unattended MEMS-based sensors can communicate for detecting and tracking of targets, border security, and environmental monitoring. Power sources, from tiny batteries to megawatt diesel generators, are key to all military operations. Power source technologies will influence the shape, size, weight, range, and performance capability of every electrically powered device, from vital sign monitors, to command and control systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, directed energy weapons, as well as land vehicles, aircraft, naval vessels, and satellites.

Technological development, the innovative use of existing technology and the emergence of new technologies, provide significant opportunities for transforming the Canadian Forces. However, transformation initiatives must also take into account other factors such as affordability, operational concepts and the human dimension.

Dr. Ingar Moen, Director, S&T Policy, Defence R&D Canada
© FrontLine Defence 2004