From Technology to Strategy and Operations – How Should We Think about Technology-Driven Innovation?

FFI-Report 2024
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This report deals with how we may analyse the connection between technological development and aspects pertaining to organisation, equipment, and concepts of operation of military forces. Furthermore, it deals with the changes in these areas that are already discernible because of digitisation, or the fourth industrial revolution. The report begins by discussing the technologies that NATO considers particularly important because of their potentially disruptive effect on military operations. It then describes the most important military-technological trends today and what core capabilities they imply that tomorrow’s armed forces must possess. A deterministic link between technology development and operational implications has proved to be hard to establish, first of all because the operational impact of various technologies depends on the context in which military operations take place. As an alternative, the report suggests an analytical approach to how operational innovation may be generated from the study of technological change. The method distinguishes between opportunity-driven and threat-driven innovation, where improved opportunity normally requires a comparatively simple cost/benefit analysis of a new capability. Threat-driven innovation, on the other hand, normally requires an assessment of whether to increase the protection of a threatened platform or making some kind of tactical adaptation to a more hostile environment, thereby reducing vulnerability. The former alternative comes down to judging the cost of increased protection against the operational value of the system. Tactical adaptation will normally avoid an economic penalty, but usually carries a cost in terms of reduced efficiency. Finally, the report draws some conclusions about the impact of current technological development on future force structures, including Norway’s. They will be characterised by ever more powerful sensors in all domains, coupled with effectors capable of long-range, precise and synchronised engagements across the domains. Furthermore, autonomous systems will come to the fore, assisted by improved connectivity which also enables network-centric organisations and concepts. Finally, the need to disperse assets to reduce visual and electronic signature and vulnerability will require the ability to operate in a distributed mode with weapon systems, command and control elements and logistics.

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