DEVELOPMENT IN NATO
Dr. Keith L. Gardner
Head of NATO's Defence Research Section
Technology, and moreover progress in technology,
is essential to the continued successful defence of the peace by NATO
and its member nations. This was shown by the recent Gulf War which served
to spotlight the crucial importance of technology in modern military confrontations.
The general effectiveness of Allied technology in that conflict surpassed
nearly everyone's expectations, and not just by a small margin. The outcome
of that engagement was astonishingly one-sided, and this despite a huge
Iraqi arsenal and an experienced army.
The message is clear: superior technology has a
decisive impact on the outcome of war. This effect is very "non-linear";
that is, a relatively small margin of superiority can completely determine
the end result. If one side's tank crews can see 10 per cent further than
their opponents, the outcome of a battle may be a nearly 100 per cent
victory. It should be emphasized that technology is referred to here in
its broadest sense, including the all important human component (i.e.,
personnel selection and training, the man-machine interface, ergonomics,
Unfortunately, superior technology does not stay
superior. It must be continually and aggressively developed. Most people
are unaware that the Gulf War was fought with technology that was 20 years
old. It takes a very long time indeed to develop and field new technology,
and the "pipeline" must be fed now if we are to avoid possible disaster
10 or 20 years hence.
While most experts involved with military matters
would agree that progress in technology is essential, the best approach
for achieving this progress is less clear. Since I believe that international
cooperation is an important ingredient in any recipe for effective advances
in defence technology, I should like to examine the cooperative technology
mechanisms which NATO has developed over the years, and to assess their
strengths and limitations.
The cooperative development of technology results
in benefits in several dimensions:
The mechanisms associated with technology development
under the NATO umbrella are complex. This is necessarily so both because
of the extreme range of what constitutes "technology" (i.e., dealing with
everything from the human being to the electromagnetic wave); and because
of the complexity of NATO itself.
- the stimulation of technological progress through the sharing of knowledge
and experience, and through the international "networking" of experts
and policy makers;
- the promotion of interoperability and standardization in early stages
- direct savings and programme acceleration through resource sharing.
Therefore, for brevity's sake, this article will
use a "geological" approach, consisting of a "surface survey" followed
by a "core sample". The "surface survey" will of course be a vast over-simplification,
providing a rather superficial look at the main features while ignoring
many important details. The subsequent "core sample" will examine one
representative example in greater detail, which will be the organization
with which I am best acquainted, namely NATO's Defence Research Group
Overview of NATO technology development
Figure 1 shows a highly simplified diagram of the technology
development structure within NATO. As shown, technology is addressed within
three organizations which report directly to the NATO Council: the Science
Committee, the Military Committee, and the Conference of National Armaments
The Science Committee is charged with the general
task of advancing NATO's "third dimension", that is, civil science and
technology within the member nations. This activity complements NATO's
efforts in the political and military dimensions.
The work of the Science Committee is centred on
its major support programmes: the Science Fellowships Programme; the Advanced
Study Institutes and Advanced Research Workshops; and the Research Grants
Programme. These programmes provide national scientists with several benefits:
the creation of fora for effective interchanges with international colleagues;
opportunities for scientist exchanges; and funding for selected research
projects. Recently, the Science Committee has taken steps to strengthen
its contacts with the Central and Eastern European (CEE) nations. Since
its inception in 1957, over 200,000 scientists have participated in Science
The Science Committee is the only organization
within the NATO structure which is limited to non-classified civil science.
The other bodies indicated in Figure 1 deal with defence technology, both
classified and unclassified.
NATO's Military Committee sponsors three technology
organizations, comprising two research centres and one technology "network".
The two research centres act as technology advisors to NATO's two main
The SHAPE Technical Centre (STC), located in The
Hague, The Netherlands, provides technical and scientific advice to SHAPE
(the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe). STC has a staff of about
150 scientists, supported by technicians and administrative staff. STC's
current programme focuses on three primary areas: force capability and
force structure (including the influence of new weapons technologies);
command and control; and communications.
The SACLANT Undersea Research Centre (SACLANTCEN),
located in La Spezia, Italy, supports the Supreme Allied Command Atlantic
(SACLANT). SACLANTCEN has a scientific staff of about 40 persons, with
an additional 100 plus technicians. SACLANTCEN's primary activity is in
the area of undersea acoustics research. It operates two research vessels
including the Alliance, a specially designed 3,200 tonne ship capable
of open-ocean operation.
STC and SACLANTCEN operate under Military Budget
funding, and are each governed by a Scientific Committee of National Representatives
(SCNRs), which review and approve all project activities.
The other primary technology activity under the
Military Committee is AGARD: the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research
and Development. AGARD was established 40 years ago, with the goal of
promoting aerospace R&D cooperation among the NATO Allies, and stimulating
advances in aerospace science. The organization is supported by a director
and staff of professionals located at AGARD Headquarters in Paris. AGARD
is funded under the Military Budget, and its activities are governed by
the National Delegates Board (NDB), composed of high-ranking government
and industrial aerospace representatives.
AGARD's nine technical panels (each consisting
of 40 to 80 national experts) meet twice each year, in conjunction with
technical symposia. Meeting locations are rotated through the nations,
in order to improve access by national experts. The proceedings of these
symposia are published and broadly distributed.
In addition to symposia, AGARD panels also carry
out some studies on specific topics. The panels' areas of focus span the
full range of aerospace science, including such topics as aerospace medicine,
avionics, and propulsion. AGARD also sponsors an Aerospace Applications
Study Committee (AASC), which commissions studies on the use of aerospace
technologies for military purposes.
As a means of promoting education on aerospace
matters among the nations, AGARD conducts lecture series, and provides
funds for a number of consultant visits, as well as other bilateral or
multilateral interchanges among the members. Special emphasis in this
respect is given to supporting the Developing Defence Industry (DDI) nations:
Greece, Portugal and Turkey. AGARD has also recently begun to establish
contacts with the CEE nations, with a view to fostering exchanges in the
The third organization which addresses technology
development within NATO is the Conference of National Armaments Directors,
which is composed of the national officials responsible for armaments
procurement within the various ministries of defence. The CNAD coordinates
the activities of six main groups: the NATO Army, Air Force and Navy Armaments
Groups (NAAG, NAFAG and NNAG respectively); the Tri-Service Group on Communications
and Electronics (TSGCE); the NATO Industrial Advisory Group (NIAG); and
the Defence Research Group (DRG).
The primary purpose of the CNAD organization is
to promote the cooperative development of military equipment. The service
armaments groups approach this goal by harmonizing national military requirements,
and by fostering the establishment of cooperative NATO development projects.
These efforts are supported by the NIAG, whose industrial participants
carry out pre-feasibility studies in support of the needs of the other
The Defence Research Group
In contrast with the other CNAD groups, the Defence
Research Group (DRG) concentrates its efforts in the earlier phases of the
technology development cycle. It has responsibility for the technology base,
as opposed to the development of specific military equipment.
The DRG provides a unique forum for collaborative
research, which is simultaneously: NATO-wide; defence-related; government-only;
The importance of the DRG is enhanced because of
the scarcity of effective fora for exchanges dealing with such technology.
Indeed, in some cases, it is the only place where researchers concerned
with classified technology are able to interact with their international
The three primary methods of operation of the DRG's
various bodies are:
The Defence Research Group's mission is to "exchange
information and cooperate on research and technology which might lead to
future defence equipment". The DRG also acts as an adviser on science and
technology, and interacts actively with the other CNAD main groups and other
NATO bodies as required.
- exchange of technical knowledge via expert meetings; seminars, symposia
and workshops; publication of technical reports and proceedings; and
by the establishment of an international community or "network" of government
- collaborative research, in which researchers bring together national
data and analyses, and harmonize their views in order to produce a common
- joint experiments and/or field trials, where nations contribute manpower,
equipment, platforms, targets and facilities, and then share the resulting
The structure of the DRG comprises three levels:
the main group itself, composed of research directors many of whom have
direct responsibility for national defence research; the Panels and Special
Groups of Experts, consisting of national laboratory directors and high-level
defence technology administrators; and the Research Study Groups (RSGs),
which are manned by national experts at the project level. There are between
700 and 900 participants in the DRG from 14 NATO nations and from various
The structure and procedures established in the
DRG over the past 25 years are aimed at initiating and managing international
collaborative research projects, which are carried out within the Research
Study Groups (RSGs). The RSGs are composed of working-level scientists
and engineers, who carry out task-oriented projects each of which has
Terms of Reference and a Programme of Work with an agreed schedule and
completion date. A typical RSG includes participation of six to eight
nations, represented by 10 to 15 national experts.
The topics covered by the current RSGs are wide-ranging,
including such diverse subjects as speech processing, laser technology,
military training, the effects of cold exposure on humans, aircraft target
identification, computer simulation and modelling, and trustworthy information
systems. There are presently 50 RSGs under the Defence Research Group,
each dealing with a specific research programme. These are administered
by eight Panels and two Special Groups of Experts (SGEs), which have assigned
areas of technology or system responsibility. The Panels include: long-term
scientific studies; physics and electronics; optics and infra-red; operations
research; human and biomedical science; electronic warfare; air defence;
and information processing technology. The two SGEs deal with concealment,
camouflage and deception; and combat engineering technology.
The NATO structure and the procedures which have
been developed during the maturing of the DRG have resulted in an effective
environment for collaborative defence research. Member nations are able
to set up research projects with relatively short delay since the "prearranged"
legal structure provided by the DRG means that activities can be routinely
carried out without negotiation of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs),
thereby saving many months (or even years) in the gestation period for
new activities. The NATO International Staff support for the DRG is efficiently
organized and inexpensive, consisting of just three staff officers and
two secretaries at NATO Headquarters.
The success of the DRG is demonstrated by strong national support for
its activities. Participation is of course voluntary, and only those activities
which elicit support from several nations are initiated. The fact that
so many nations are willing to contribute the time of their best experts
indicates that they receive a positive return on their investment. This
is particularly true for the smaller nations, some of which rely heavily
on the DRG to provide "gearing" or "leverage" for their own programmes.
To date, the DRG has produced approximately 400 major technical reports.
It has also sponsored dozens of cooperative field trials, resulting in
significant savings for the participating nations (through resource sharing)
as well as greatly expanded databases (through data sharing). The DRG
has also conducted cooperative component and equipment evaluations, and
has developed extensive computer models and analysis tools. The DRG's
Panel 1 has carried out over 50 Long-Term Scientific Studies (LTSS), each
focused on an aspect of military technology and its implications.
Limitations of the DRG
Besides examining the DRG's structure and strengths,
it is instructive to look at its limitations. International cooperation
is not always feasible, even (or perhaps especially) in areas of high national
importance. The following dimensions are particularly important:
Sensitivity. International cooperation is only
possible when the participating nations are willing to share their data
and knowledge. If a topic is too sensitive (regarding either security
or industrial competitiveness), cooperation is impossible.
Cost. If a project is very expensive and would
require significant levels of national investment, most nations would
insist on negotiation of an MOU to precisely define agreements. This in
turn impedes progress, since the time required for negotiation of MOUs
can be substantial. For this reason, most research projects under the
DRG represent relatively small national investments. Although the DRG
has in fact initiated several higher-cost collaborative projects with
formal MOUs, these have so far been the exception rather than the rule.
Stage of Development. DRG activities are also confined
to the early stages of the development cycle (i.e., research and exploratory
development), where cooperation is easier to achieve (assuming, of course,
that cooperation is possible from the sensitivity standpoint). As a project
nears production, the likelihood of successful cooperation decreases substantially.
The last aspect considered here is the legal dimension.
NATO's pre-arranged framework (coupled with the relatively small national
investments involved) allows the national experts themselves to define
their cooperative work programmes, without any legal assistance. The DRG
approach thus avoids one of the major impediments to successful international
cooperation, namely, protracted negotiations on the legal aspects of cooperative
agreements. However, this advantage has an accompanying disadvantage:
there is a definite limitation to the scope and nature of cooperation
possible within the traditional DRG domain.
By way of conclusion, the following observations
concerning technology development and defence research as conducted in
NATO should be borne in mind:
Cooperation is voluntary. As the NATO nations
are sovereign, participation in collaborative activity is completely at
the discretion of the individual nations.
NATO technology must adapt to change. Technology
has been in a state of breathtakingly rapid advance for the past half-century,
and the rate of that advance has itself been accelerating. But in the
past few years this factor has been overshadowed by political, economic
and military change. This chaotic situation has compounded the problems
of those who forecast capabilities and needs in defence technology. I
believe this is another area in which the NATO networks can benefit the
nations, by establishing critical international contacts and facilitating
the exchange of views at all levels. It has now become imperative for
the NATO nations to formulate a new strategy for the future of cooperative
technology development. The environment has changed, and NATO's technology
structures must be adapted to the emerging needs.
The Network is the main benefit. The "linking together"
of national research directors, technology administrators and experts
from the various nations is a major benefit of NATO's technology cooperation.
Indeed, I believe it is the main benefit, outweighing the other advantages
of resource savings, standardization, etc. Technology is not developed
in isolation, but relies on the intellectual stimulation, inspiration
and knowledge sharing which can only be found in a group of experts working
in a common field.
Figure 1 : NATO's Technology Development Structure
© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation