Emerging and disruptive technologies are game changers on the battlefield
A new symposium has been added to the calendar of conferences and meetings of the professional public, organized by MediaNetwork Publishing House under the title "Technology and Defence Strategy of the Czech Republic". The topics of individual lectures oriented into two panel discussions entitled "The State's View on the Role of Technology in Defence Strategy" and "The View of the Defence Industry and Experts on the Role of Technology in Defence" set the framework for the presentations and discussion, which was attended by Minister of Defence Jana Černochová, Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Karel Řehka, 1st Deputy Minister of Defence František Šulc, Brig. Gen. Petr Šnajdárek, Director of the Communications and Information Systems Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic and Col. Jan Mazal, Head of the Department of Military Robotics at University of Defense Brno (UNOB). The defence industry was represented by the Vice President for Research and Innovation of CSG, Brig. Gen. Prof. Bohuslav Přikryl and the Director of Ray Service Jakub Gabriel. The possibilities of innovation and cooperation in the field of defence were presented by former Minister of Defence of the Slovak Republic Martin Fedor. The topic of the 5th generation aircraft concept, its future and risks was presented by the foreign guest of the symposium, Senior Operations Advisor-Air Domain, Saab Aeronautics, Jussi Halmetoja.
Picture: The themes of the individual lectures oriented into two panel discussions entitled "The State's View on the Role of Technology in the Defence Strategy" and "The View of the Defence Industry and Experts on the Role of Technology in Defence" set the framework for the presentations and discussion, which was attended by Minister of Defence Jana Černochová, Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Karel Řehka, 1st Deputy Minister of Defence František Šulc, Brig. Gen. Petr Šnajdárek, Director of the Communications and Information Systems Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic and Col. Jan Mazal, Head of the Department of Military Robotics UNOB. | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
As confirmed to CZ DEFENCE by the publisher and moderator Mgr. Ivo Hartmann, the publishing house organizes 40 conferences, symposia and round tables per year in the fields of law, transport, energy, healthcare and defence. "This symposium focused in particular on emerging and disruptive technologies, the so-called EDTs, which have the potential to become game changers on the battlefield. Discussions also included how to incorporate their emergence into the modernisation of the Czech army, how to finance their acquisition and operation, and what role the domestic defence industry should play in this," Hartmann confirmed. The participants of the symposium then took the opportunity to address the issues of modern technologies, particularly through the lens of the Czech Republic's defence strategy as a member of the North Atlantic Alliance, the war in Ukraine, and the possibilities and capabilities of the Czech research and defence industry.
In her introductory speech, Minister of Defence Jana Černochová stated that artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum or space technologies and additive materials are among the most important technologies of today that will have an extensive impact on our society in the coming years, including in the field of defence and security. "For these reasons, all world powers are investing huge amounts of money, effort and talent in research and development of these technologies. It should be noted that the real champions and innovators are not the countries themselves, but their private sector and academia," the Minister said. According to her, these are mainly start-ups and researchers who have rarely been in contact with the defence and security sector in their professional careers, let alone being members of the armed forces. "That is why you have a huge challenge ahead of you, and that is to build a bridge and bridge the gap between the innovators and the sector. The very rapid technological advances in recent years only testify to the need to create and foster that triple helix of innovation. This means closer cooperation between the state, private actors and academia. Only this triple combination can create the innovative and disruptive technologies that have always been the basis for successful defence. I am convinced that the deployment of modern technologies in combination with traditional weapon systems and the flexibility of private companies are precisely one of the reasons why Ukraine has withstood and continues to withstand the Russian invasion," the Minister said.
Picture: Representing the defense industry were Vice President for Research and Innovation of CSG Brig. Gen., Prof. Bohuslav Přikryl and Director of Ray Service Jakub Gabriel. | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Karel Řehka said that from a strategic point of view there is a change of some paradigms. "In my opinion, modern technology, as it is being demonstrated today, does not change anything about the nature or character of war, but it changes the nature of war very much. It is still a battle of wills," the Chief of General Staff said. According to him, it is a paradigm shift where we acknowledge that a large-scale armed conflict with a technologically advanced adversary can occur and last for a long period of time. "A larger conventional war may threaten in Europe, and I think that's probably the crucial thing, because there was a time when it was not admitted and strategic documents almost ruled it out and the principles of deferred need and so on applied," Řehka said. In this context, General Řehka said that the issue of technology is much discussed at home and with counterparts in the Alliance. "For example, operational capability is not only about the quality of technology, but it is also about quantity and it is always about some kind of search for a balance between the two. Anyway, what we're definitely seeing today that's impacting the interdependence with technology is that there's no longer effectively a secure rear or some kind of secure rear," Řehka said. The warfare system is evolving and placing new demands on militaries. "We see it generally, in future warfare it's going to be the ability to process massive amounts of data," the general said. The Army simply needs to communicate more with the weapons industry and academia, according to the Chief of General Staff. For that reason, cooperation is being deepened not only with the Chamber of Commerce's Defense Industry Section, but also with the DSIA. An innovation hub is being set up at the level of the General Staff, bringing together representatives of science, academia and the military. "We tell each other our findings and try to listen to each other," continued General Řehka, who concluded his speech by saying that despite all the platitudes about how we need to focus on all modern technologies and how terribly important it is, we need not to fall asleep, we need to perceive that the army has limited resources. "I don't just mean money, I mean people, time and energy. And I think that if we have ever had a problem in anything here in the Czech Republic, for example in research and development, it is to determine what makes sense to pursue and what doesn't and to set priorities. It sounds simple, but it is not a simple thing at all. Of course, sometimes you have to walk into blind alleys, because otherwise you won't find the right path," said Lieutenant General Karel Řehka.
Picture: In her opening speech, Minister of Defence Jana Černochová stated that artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum or space technologies, and additive materials are among the most important technologies of today that will have an extensive impact on our society in the coming years, including in the field of defence and security. | Shutterstock
František Šulc, 1st Deputy Minister of Defence, pointed out that the following areas are absolutely crucial for the discussion on technology and innovation in defence in the future: what the battlefield of the future will look like, what the societies of the future will look like, the mental ability and adaptation to technological possibilities and the willingness to implement them. Also important is the physical ability to innovate and introduce new technologies, in terms of knowing how to control them, how much money it will take, and so on. "Technology brings with it enormous pressure for investment, and not everyone has not only the money to acquire it, but to develop and innovate. It will depend on one thing - the willingness to add significant sums to weapon systems. Sure, robotics and automation can reduce costs, for example in logistics and combat, but they still require infrastructure, human capacity and funds that only some will be able to afford to spend. So what will and should we be interested in? First, it is the effectiveness of the use of weapons assets," the deputy said, saying that the issue is the effectiveness of deploying these assets against relatively cheap enemy assets. An important point is the protection of combat systems from cyber attacks, as well as the continued willingness to spend relatively large sums to upgrade these technologies. Investment is an important issue. According to Šulc, the state gives a lot of resources to support development and innovation. "But the question is whether what we get for this money corresponds to what we want and need. I do not want to criticise anyone," the deputy said. The problem, according to him, is that it often remains with prototypes that do not get further developed. "We have a mental problem to admit publicly that most or a large part of development projects end up either in a dead end or something different than originally expected," said František Šulc. According to him, it is important to concentrate on transferring what will make it from development, from prototype to mass production.
The experience of defence industry companies was presented by Jakub Gabriel, director of Ray Service, who pointed out the differences in industrial cooperation, for example, when dealing with a contract for a new IFV for the Czech and Slovak Republics. An important moment of support for the Czech arms industry was the establishment of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. According to him, the campaigns organised by the Section helped to define the environment and the number of relevant entities for industrial cooperation. According to Jakub Gabriel, the basic problem is the lack of cost capacities for the technologies in operation, which is why the creation of the so-called critical infostructure is important. "We have a lot of companies that are not part of the primary critical infrastructure and are not run as such, that is the state of the art today. But it's certainly one of the issues that should be addressed by the Department of Defense or the state, because as we see it, to go to a type of military production due to sudden conflicts is a thing that is not utopian. It can happen and then some mechanisms and conditions should be set up for how this can be achieved and how to ensure that we are able to work together and defend ourselves together as quickly as possible," said Jakub Gabriel, the director of Ray Service.
The symposium used its programme for an expert discussion, not only on the issue of innovation, cooperation between the state and the domestic defence industry, but also on the issue of the economic availability of the latest defence technologies. Ivo Hartmann confirmed the importance of this meeting to CZ DEFENCE. "It certainly succeeded in highlighting the importance of EDT, which should be incorporated into the update of the defence strategy in relation to the new national security strategy that is being prepared."