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Europe's armed forces seek to pinpoint needed ‘emerging disruptive technologies'

Europe’s defence ministries plan to identify a common set of emerging disruptive technologies (EDTs) to develop for military application, although they differ over whether the technologies should be retrofitted to legacy systems or integrated into next-generation systems.

“We are finalising an action plan to identify, research, and develop the most strategic EDTs, which should be ready by end of 2021,” said Jean-Francois Ripoche, head of research, technology, and innovation at the European Defence Agency (EDA). “It will create a monitoring and reporting mechanism to identify and explore collaborative opportunities [for EDT capability development] within Europe” to promote interoperability, he said, adding that the findings will be regularly referenced with NATO’s work on EDTs to avoid duplication.

Ripoche and others spoke during a 20 April virtual conference on defence research and technology hosted by EDA. The draft plan is now circulating among the agency’s 26 member states (all EU countries except Denmark) for comment and amendment. Its monitoring mechanism is to be launched in 2022, the EDA told Janes on 22 April.

EDTs are wide-ranging, from nano-structures, new materials, and man-machine bionics, to autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and hyper-speed and space-based weapons. Many of these are researched or developed in the commercial world, which the military must find and customise.

“Our main challenge lies in technologies such as cyber-tech or AI that are not driven by the defence sector,” said General Andre Lanata, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation. “With only modest financial resources, they offer our enemies a great range of possibilities for disruption, not only for the military but civil populations.”

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