The future of NATO – state-of-the-art technologies
Experts discussed the concept of updating the electronic “nervous system” of the North Atlantic Alliance
The history of armed conflict shows that the effectiveness of the process of communication and exchange of information in times of war is as important as artillery and aviation, strategy, or logistics.
At the same time, the accelerated development of information and telecommunication technologies has significantly increased the role of situational awareness of each serviceman.
The “nervous system” of modern armed forces is a decision called C4ISR (Command and Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) – which translates as: “command, control, communications, computerization, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”
“muscular” side of the military – weapons, and troops. The data is aggregated, processed, and transmitted securely to authorized users.
Discussion panel at the Atlantic Council
A discussion panel at the Atlantic Council presented the abstract of the report: “The Future of NATO C4ISR: Assessment and Recommendations after Madrid”, co-authored by a retired Major General Gordon Davies (MG Gordon B.
Davis, a former high-ranking US Army officer, explained that “a new strategic concept was adopted at last year’s alliance summit in Madrid.”
The decisions made in Madrid, according to Davis, will determine the current and future requirements for the new NATO C4ISR, taking into account the need to develop and implement a new C4ISR architecture to maintain its technological superiority and military advantage.
Directions for the development and improvement of C4ISR NATO
While the effectiveness of the C4ISR lies at the heart of the success of every NATO operation, its importance remains underestimated. Moreover, according to panelists at the Atlantic Council, “understanding the importance of C4ISR is only the first step. The next one is an idea of what exactly the alliance will need to do in the future with C4ISR in order to strengthen its capabilities.”
NATO’s C4ISR needs improvement to meet current and future challenges: the changing nature of modern warfare, terrorism, China’s rising military power, climate change, and more.#
“The Allies have made significant progress in improving C4ISR capabilities and related concepts, policies, and procedures,” General Davis assured, “However, shortcomings and vulnerabilities remain. It’s time to eliminate them.”
Unfortunately, traditional C4ISR systems were not built with compatibility in mind. Each NATO country had its own technological solution and standards. In addition, C4ISR differed in the types of troops.
Another participant in the discussion, a retired general, James Cartwright, a Member of the Board of Directors of the Atlantic Council (Gen. James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), Board Director, Atlantic Council) emphasized the importance of re-architecting the C4ISR system so that “decision making is instantly and efficiently distributed along the chain of command throughout operational activities of the armed forces.
For this, according to the general, colossal computing power will be needed, both for storing and transmitting data and information to command nodes.
The deployment rate of any weapon on Earth has changed. This means that “despite the best available intelligence, there will still be surprises,” and it is also likely that in the very coming years, the average time between the realization of a threat and the use of military force will decrease to a few minutes.
John Bailony, Executive Vice President and COO at Leonardo (John Baylouny, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer Leonardo DRS), a US Department of Defense contracting company that provides system integration and other IT solutions, is also one of the authors of the report. He is convinced that the key direction for improving the C4ISR system should be the speed of data processing and the speed of distribution of commands.
“The speed of alerting command posts is important so that everyone understands within milliseconds where the rest of the military mission members are in the combat space,” said Beiloni, an engineer with 30 years of experience in the defense industry.
Lessons from the war in Ukraine for C4ISR NATO
The relevance of systems such as C4ISR will only increase in the face of geopolitical tensions.
Cheryl Lingel, director of the RAND Corporation Modernization and Employment Program (Sherill Lingel, Director, Force Modernization and Employment Program, RAND Project Air Force, RAND Corporation), recalled the 2019 RAND study, During the study, even then it was found that “processes and technologies, digital infrastructure are outdated and not suitable for the speed and scale that are necessary for a serious and major military conflict.”
Russia’s war in Ukraine demonstrated the importance of the C4ISR on the battlefield. Alliance structures became convinced in Ukraine that C4ISR “intelligence and reconnaissance” was essential, both to detect early Russian troop buildups on the border and to target key Russian strongholds.
Flexible and responsive command and control structures have enabled the Ukrainian military to quickly adapt to the changing situation on the ground.
quickly respond to the data they receive from above,” Lingel emphasized.
Both Ukraine and NATO must be prepared to respond to any manifestations of a complex geopolitical environment.
And in this regard, the question arises, are we planning to prepare for such scenarios? And what other scenarios should we plan from NATO’s point of view?” – such questions were raised by a researcher from the RAND Corporation.
Gordon Davis, former Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO, answered the questions raised by the representative of the RAND Corporation.
We saw this long Russian build-up, and we had the “luxury” of having the time to calculate what the consequences of an invasion might be. In other cases, this time may not be,” Davis explained.
According to the general, the situation around Ukraine just “revealed the need for communication networks ready for operation in war conditions, C4ISR command post systems that must immediately respond, whether it be a massive cyber attack or a missile strike.”
A major general who has served in Afghanistan and in various roles in the US Army in Europe stressed that “the war in Ukraine made it possible to test the survivability of C4ISR networks in the active electromagnetic spectrum with the capabilities of detection and suppression of electronic warfare that Russia has.”
In addition, according to Davies, “Ukraine’s experience has shown that NATO needs to customize the C4ISR system and its architecture to collect and analyze multidimensional information when there are many different types of images: electronic, electro-optical, infrared and satellite, which they can contribute to the C4ISR system. by connecting with and intelligence”.
At the same time, the general mentioned the software created by Ukrainian volunteers – “Delta”, built “no longer according to the Soviet principles of information transfer” from the battlefield, when “the intelligence officer transmitted information about the enemy “up” to the military leadership.” “Delta” is “a web service that does not require server hardware”: it is enough to have the Internet. On one screen, “all data about the enemy is visible”: both about personnel and weapons. Delta “receives data from a variety of sources, from drones to radio interception” of telephone conversations.
John Beiluni, in relation to the conclusions from the war in Ukraine, attributed, first of all, the need to “protect the technologies themselves such as C4ISR, so that they “do not end up in the hands of the enemies who have taken control of it.”
“We have invested heavily to ensure that if something is hijacked, our entire system does not become vulnerable,” said a senior defense company executive.
General Cartwright noted that “it was in Ukraine that NATO began to understand the current shortcomings of the C4ISR architecture.”
“In the early stages, in the “zero phases”, C4ISR should be able to help understand the most difficult of all: the intentions of the enemy. What does our enemy really mean? Have we read it correctly? Are we understanding the information correctly? It would take tens of billions of dollars to perfect the C4ISR and it would take us probably 10 years to make it effective,” Cartwright said.
What to prepare for at the next NATO summit in Vilnius?
Currently, the US and NATO countries are facing threats from a growing number of adversaries, from mid-level military forces to non-state groups, each of which can use a much wider range of tools to resist.
Among other things, the report highlights some of the innovative technologies that NATO should prioritize. It also talks about how the alliance can better cooperate with the private sector in the field of IT, as well as what steps should be taken at the Vilnius summit to maintain NATO’s C4ISR military superiority on “today’s and tomorrow’s battlefield.”
General Davis noted that “one of NATO’s greatest added value is the ability to collect, store and then analyze intelligence and process it for both political and military decision making.”
“Intelligence sharing is critical,” Davis said. The general believes that this is one of the most important aspects that should be discussed in Vilnius in terms of improving NATO’s C4ISR decisions.
“Second: the ability to quickly process this data,” the report’s author added, referring to the NATO Joint Intelligence Center (NIFC), which, as a “test case for the use of artificial intelligence, analyzed a mass of image data to track changes in the battle order of Russian aircraft and understand how many planes are left.
General Cartwright also considers the development of AI as one of the most important areas for the development of NATO.
“In the field of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the time has come for the introduction of artificial intelligence that recognizes data and processes it,” said James Cartwright, former vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his opinion, in the NATO C4ISR system, it’s time to “change a simple computer to artificial intelligence.”
To advance the advancement of AI technologies, the US military launched the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) in 2018, which provides AI capabilities to solve key problems and identifies partnerships with leading private technology companies, academia, and global allies and partners in these areas. This center is also entrusted with the function of regulating issues of military ethics and AI.