Hypersonics, autonomous nano robots, digital twins, 6G/7G communications and Internet of Things (IoT sensors) – these are just some of the exciting innovations that are set to transform defense over the next few years.
To make the most of these and other technologies, forces should have the ability to process unimaginably large volumes of information and deliver real-time insights to key decision-makers.
This is the message in KPMG’s forthcoming new report The future of defense, which examines the eight signals of change affecting the defense sector, and the kinds of responses necessary to remain one step ahead of adversaries. Read on for a preview of the signals of change.
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Speed of communication and of decision-making has become a huge priority, supported by wireless 6G or even 7G, enabling gathering and processing of data in real-time. Advanced simulation can enable gaming across multiple scenarios, helping determine the impact of decisions or events, and move, at pace, with greater confidence.
And with joint efforts becoming ever more crucial, there should be interoperability with allies and collaboration with industry partners, with integrated data flowing safely across systems and platforms.
Future battle space
In the future battle space, connected forces are looking to achieve seamlessly deploying systems and assets where they’re needed.
Forces are looking to have sensors on people, vehicles, aircraft and maritime platforms to be commonplace, to collect the data needed to coordinate humans and machines at faster speeds.
The emerging space domain
The ‘space race’ has re-emerged, with private industry increasingly driving the fast pace of innovation. Defense forces have a role in protecting both sovereign and commercial interests in space, and helping to ensure continuity of communications, with close collaboration between allies.
The emerging cyber domain
In an increasingly virtual world, forces should be able to prevent, detect and deal with cyberattacks, and identify fake news that could derail plans.
Achieving ‘cyber-worthiness’ is a top priority for many, to help ensure that systems and platforms can operate effectively in a range of environments. It’s also vital to vet and monitor suppliers of equipment and software, to maintain cyber security.
Data mastery can make a big difference, and forces should invest in data analytics capabilities. It’s equally important to keep data secure and private, not just for the benefit of citizens, but also to avoid it falling into enemy hands.
Agile supply chains
Like other sectors, defense forces are having to rethink their manufacturing footprint, to help improve reliability of supply.
There’s also a growing focus on supply chain integrity, to protect intellectual property and help assure quality of components and finished goods.
Automated replenishment of all inventory on bases, from groceries to maintenance equipment and weapons, will likely become the norm.
Climate change can drive conflicts, influence battle conditions, impact supply chains, and damage military infrastructure. Resilience is a key capability for people, equipment and facilities; we may even see a move to mobile installations.
More and more forces’ staff are being asked to support civilian populations during climate change related disasters, and resource planning should accommodate such demands.
Defense forces can also play their part in supporting national climate goals, by aiming to reduce their own emissions and incorporating sustainability and decarbonization into future acquisition programs.
The future of work
People are at the center of any force, and the future defense workforce should be able to adapt swiftly to changing combat methods driven by technology, which calls for closer integration between people and machines, constant re-skilling, and a culture that values creative, flexible thinking to predict and respond to different scenarios.
The re-emergence of great power competition is a highly significant trend, calling for a focus on traditional and emerging alliances, support from the US, and a closer working partnership with private industry to accelerate innovation.
The future of defense is connected
By the end of the decade, digitally-enabled defense forces will likely enjoy 5th and 6th generation battlefield capabilities that can harness the full potential of new systems and platforms.
To do this, their operating models should be totally connected from front to back, seamlessly linking complex weapons systems, command and control systems, allies and supply chains. Mission-centricity should align the entire organization with force requirements, delivering unified mission and campaign operations.
In this connected world, leaders should be able to deploy scarce specialist resources across the force and use real-time insights to help make better decisions.
Naturally, there may be investment trade-offs between conventional and new capabilities. And, with private industry increasingly outspending government in innovation, defense should be a fast follower in platforms and technology.
To achieve a connected defense force calls for a range of capabilities, such as data and analytics, responsive supply chain and logistics, technology architecture, and strong relationships with allies and industries.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in defense, with huge possibilities. And a connected defense force will have the capabilities to make the most of the digital revolution.