Global instability requires NATO to maintain the defence technology edge

Florence, 7 October 2016 - As the Alliance faces increased instability in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond, maintaining advanced defence and security science and technology (S&T) remains vital for the Alliance. This was the main takeaway from a five-day mission to Italy by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Technology Trends and Security.

From 3 to 7 October 2016, a delegation of 20 members of parliament from 10 NATO member states visited Northwest Italy and gained a 360° picture of Italian, NATO and EU efforts to push S&T progress across all military domains and the security sector. The delegation was led by the Chair of the Sub-Committee, Jan Arild Ellingsen (Norway), and the members were hosted by the Italian delegation to the NATO PA under its head of delegation, Andrea Manciulli.

Emerging technologies that could disrupt the future military balance were a subject of great attention throughout the visit. Members saw that the Italian industry, academia and government are making great strides to maintain Italy’s – and thus NATO’s – technology edge by developing new technologies as well as addressing their challenges and risks. In the future, military operations will become even more diverse, and the financial pressures on defence budgets remain a key limitation. Therefore, Marco Protti, Head of Advanced Research in the Aircraft Division at Leonardo-Finmeccanica, told delegates that to win the technological “cat-and-mouse” game of the future, defence technologies needed to possess “product capability, product flexibility and product sustainability”. At the Italian Ministry of Defence’ Telecommunications School, members saw first-hand how emerging technologies are translated to military operators, as they were briefed on the school’s cyber defence education and training. During the visit, the delegation also discussed the future of defence S&T with senior leadership of the companies Leonardo-Finmeccanica and Fincantieri.

Cooperation and collaboration among companies, researchers and states is an urgent need in order to remain relevant in tomorrow’s world, the delegation heard from all interlocutors. Rear Admiral (ret.) Hank Ort, Director of NATO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in La Spezia, stressed that NATO needs to prepare for an unknown, unpredictable future and maintain the military edge. The CMRE is one example of a cutting-edge S&T hub for cooperation and collaboration. The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra also presents an irreplaceable S&T institution to address European security challenges together, including the migration challenge, nuclear terrorism and maritime security. Delegates also saw concrete examples of cooperation and collaboration throughout the visit – including the nine-states F-35 programme, the German-Italian Type 212 submarine class and the Franco-Italian European multi-purpose FREMM frigate.