27 Oct. 1997

NATO's Research &
Technology Organization

A General Introduction

The NATO Research and Technology Organization (RTO) is the single focus in NATO for Defence Research and Technology activities. Its mission is to conduct and promote cooperative research and information exchange. The objective is to support the development and effective use of national defence research and technology to meet the military needs of the Alliance, to maintain a technological lead and to provide advice to NATO and national decision makers. The RTO performs its mission with the support of an extensive network of national experts. It also ensures effective coordination with other NATO bodies involved in R&T activities.

The principal tools used to perform the mission are:

  • development and maintenance of a coordinated long term strategy for NATO defence research & technology;
  • ensuring the coordination and harmonization of Programmes of Work within the NATO R&T community;
  • coordination of R&T programmes and activities between nations as well as within NATO as appropriate;
  • provision of advice on R&T issues to senior NATO bodies;
  • sponsorship of joint studies and research projects;
  • conducting and promotion of cooperative research activities including tests and measurement campaigns;
  • promotion and facilitation of information exchange regarding R&T amongst NATO member nations;
  • provision of assistance to member states for the purpose of increasing their scientific and technological potential, with special emphasis on Greece, Portugal and Turkey;
  • provision of specific and general support for Partner nations.

The RTO is a NATO organization reporting both to the Military Committee and to the Conference of National Armament Directors. It comprises a Research and Technology Board (RTB) as the highest level of national representation and the Research and Technology Agency (RTA), a dedicated staff with its headquarters in Neuilly, France. The total spectrum of R&T activities is covered by 6 Panels, dealing with:

  • Studies, Analysis and Simulation; (SAS)
  • Systems Concepts and Integration; (SCI)
  • Sensors and Electronics Technology; (SET)
  • Information Systems Technology; (IST)
  • Applied Vehicle Technology; (AVT)
  • Human Factors and Medicine. (HFM)

These Panels are made up of national representatives as well as generally recognized 'world class' scientists. The Panels also provide a communication link to military users and other NATO bodies. The scientific and technological work of the RTO is carried out by Technical Teams, created for specific activities and with a specific duration. Such Technical Teams can organise workshops, symposia, field trials, lecture series and training courses. An important function of these Technical Teams is to ensure the continuity of the expert networks. Technical Teams also play an important role in formulating longer term plans.

In order to facilitate contacts with the military users and other NATO activities, a small part of the RTA staff is located in NATO Headquarters in Brussels. In particular this staff provides liaison with the International Military Staff and with the Defence Support Division. The main coordination of the efforts directed at the Partnership Nations is also located in Brussels. Coordination of R&T with other NATO bodies is further ensured by participation in the various Boards. This is in particular the case for the NATO C3 Board and the Science Committee. The Directors of the NATO C3 Agency and of the SACLANTCEN Research Centre are ex-officio members of the RTB.

For the coordination and communication with the nations, National Coordinators have been nominated in each nation. These National Coordinators play an important role in the organization of activities that take place in the various nations, such as holding symposia, meetings of the RTB, assisting with Lecture Series and the running of Consultant Missions.

Cooperation with nations in Middle and Eastern Europe was started under the Partnership for Peace programme. The RTO attaches particular importance to this activity, especially as working together in the field of research is one of the more promising areas of initial cooperation. Contacts were already established under the AGARD Outreach programme and through symposia with Partners. This activity will be enlarged, paying particular attention to those nations which shortly may become full NATO members.

The RTO builds upon earlier cooperation in defence research and technology as set-up under the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD) and the Defence Research Group (DRG). AGARD and the DRG share common roots in that they were both established at the initiative of Dr Theodore von Krmn, a leading aerospace scientist, who early on recognized the importance of scientific support for the Allied Armed Forces. The RTO intends to capitalize on these common roots and to provide the Alliance and the NATO nations with a strong scientific and technological basis that will guarantee a solid base for the future.

    See also:
    NATO Review, No. 1, Vol. 45, January 1997
    NATO's new Research and Technology Organization. - Keith L. Gardner and Terry A. Franks

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