Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW)

  • Last updated: 04 Aug. 2022 08:30

This information is now available in the topic Countering terrorism.

  • A unique initiative by lead nations

    The DAT POW is a unique programme built on the principle of common funding. It is a fast route to capability development. Under the DAT POW, individual NATO countries, with support and contributions from other member countries and NATO bodies, lead projects to develop advanced technologies or counter-measures which meet the most urgent security needs in the face of terrorism and other asymmetric threats. The programme supports the development of concepts, doctrine, policy, equipment, training and lessons learned, ensuring a comprehensive approach to counter-terrorism capabilities.

    This programme was approved by NATO Leaders at the 2004 Istanbul Summit to strengthen the Alliance’s contribution to combating terrorism by enhancing capability development, supporting operations and fostering partnerships.

    The DAT POW development is driven by the latest political guidance, including the 2010 Strategic concept, NATO’s 2012 counter-terrorism policy guidelines and guidance on NATO’s enhanced role in the international fight against terrorism, endorsed by NATO Leaders at their May 2017 meeting and further reinforced in 2018 and 2019.

  • A fast track to innovation and novel technologies

    The DAT POW bridges the gap between long-term military requirements and urgent operational needs. It also contributes to NATO Science & Technology (S&T) activities in the field of emerging and disruptive technologies, such as data and autonomous vehicles exploitation.

    The DAT POW projects cover a wide range of areas.

    Protection of harbours and ports

    The safe and uninterrupted functioning of harbours and ports is critical to the global economy and it is essential for maritime assets to be made as secure as possible. To enhance maritime protection, various technologies are explored. To date, these have included sensor nets, electro-optical detectors, rapid-reaction capabilities, underwater magnetic barriers and unmanned underwater vehicles. In 2018 and 2020, under the leadership of France, the DAT POW supported "Cut Away", a multinational harbour exploration and clearance exercise. Additionally, under the lead of the NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) located in La Spezia, Italy, the DAT POW is assessing the use of underwater autonomous systems to detect maritime IEDs and of virtual reality for situational awareness.

    Reducing the vulnerability of wide-body civilian and military aircraft to potential threats

    A range of infrared and electronic counter-measures is under development. These have been applied to large aircraft, helicopters and fast jets. Every year, exercises and tests are organised to improve systems and equipment.  The United Kingdom is the lead nation for this initiative and the NATO Air Force Armaments Group (NAFAG) has provided critical expertise and support to the annual field trials.

    Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and defending against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats

    Ideally, terrorists will be prevented from acquiring and using CBRN weapons.  Should prevention fail, NATO is committed to protecting its forces, territory and populations against their effects and to supporting recovery efforts.  The DAT POW supports the Alliance's overall ability to meet these commitments through projects covering detection, identification and monitoring of CBRN substances, CBRN information management, physical protection, hazard management and CBRN medical counter-measures. The DAT POW also supports training and exercises, including those conducted with live agents.

    The DAT POW has also supported the Joint CBRN Defence Centre of Excellence, in Vyskov, Czech Republic, in establishing and enhancing its CBRN Reach back capability, i.e. ensuring CBRN expertise is available to the NATO Command Structure and Allied forces in theatres of operations.

    Countering improvised explosive devices

    This effort is led by several NATO bodies including the Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) Centre of Excellence in Madrid, Spain. Various technologies to defeat IEDs have been explored, in particular stand-off detection. The DAT POW supports the annual "Northern Challenge" event, led by Iceland, which exercises counter-IED and IED disposal abilities. The biennial "Thor's Hammer" electronic counter-measures trial series, to be hosted by Sweden in 2021, and the radio-controlled IED database are two innovative approaches supported by the DAT POW, which are now also being leveraged to support countering unmanned aircraft systems. 

    Explosive ordnance disposal and consequence management

    Here the objective is to improve NATO's capabilities, through the training of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams and optimised management of the consequences of an explosion. The DAT POW supports NATO EOD demonstrations and trials, led by the NATO EOD Centre of Excellence in Trencin, Slovakia. With DAT POW support, the demining community also tested integrated exoskeletons. The strong community of interest includes experts from partner countries, such as the Irish Defence Forces' Ordnance School.

    Countering unmanned aircraft systems (C-UAS)

    Terrorist misuse of unmanned aircraft systems poses a number of challenges to Allies' and partner nations' preparedness both in theatres of operations and in their own homelands. The DAT POW supports comprehensive capabilities development in the field of C-UAS through tests, evaluation, exercises, concept development and technical standardization. The programme supported activities on the entire protection chain (detection, identification, tracking, engagement, command and control). In addition, in 2021, the DAT POW supported an innovation challenge to develop sensor fusion technologies based on artificial intelligence to track, classify and identify drones as they fly within a defined area, using the data provided by the available sensors.

    Developing non-lethal capabilities

    The Alliance has stressed the need for better response capabilities to minimise collateral damage. If forces can only respond in a lethal manner, civilians and military alike are endangered, and mission failure or political fallout may result. Under the lead of Belgium, Canada and the United States, the DAT POW sponsored the demonstration of the use of non-lethal weapons in different environments.


    Biometrics data are essential to protect forces in theatre, allowing them to identify known or suspected insurgents. NATO's Strategic Commands have recognised that developing and improving this area is a military requirement.  NATO's biometrics programme of work and action plan cover all the areas required for a full capability (doctrine, concept, standards, equipment, etc.). A prototype called NABIS (NATO Biometrics Information System) was developed by the NATO Communications and Information Agency and is currently deployed in Kosovo for testing and operational experimentation by the Kosovo Force (KFOR). The DAT POW community also supported an initiative to develop a biometrics capability in a maritime environment.

    Technical exploitation

    In 2020, NATO developed a technical exploitation policy to counter terrorist capabilities. The aim is to collect material that has been in the possession of terrorists and other adversaries, such as weapons, computers and cell phones, and to use scientific tools and analysis to identify the actors, their capabilities and intentions. The policy will drive the development of capabilities across NATO and in nations, including though the use of artificial intelligence and data-sharing solutions.