Four technology forecast reports from the Fraunhofer Institute have been reviewed by staff at the Department of Military-Technology at the Swedish National Defence College. The task given by the Swedish Defence Material Administration, FMV, was to assess the military utility of the given technologies in a time frame to 2040, from a Swedish Armed Forces (SwAF) point of view.
We assess the military utility of a certain technology as its contribution to the operational capabilities of the SwAF, based on identified relevant scenarios. Since a new capability catalogue is under development at the SwAF Headquarters, we will only present general assessments of the capability impact from the technologies under study.
The technologies were grouped in three classes; technologies with potentially significant, uncertain or negligible military utility. The classification uncertain is given for technologies that are difficult to put in the two other classes, however it is not because the technology readiness level (TRL) is not reached by 2040.
The following technologies were assessed to have a potential for significant military utility;
Kinodynamic motion planning
This technology is a prerequisite for reaching full autonomy of highly agile unmanned systems and is probably a logical, evolutionary way to go forward. It will affect most SwAF capabilities through enhanced mobility. This technology should be studied by the SwAF, preferably within all operational environments.
Bio-inspired Adaptive Camouflage Surfaces
"Bio-inspired camouflage" should be viewed in a broad multispectral perspective involving design requirements for low contrast in the visual- and IR-spectrum as well as, for most applications, low reflectivity in the radar-band. There is an ongoing duel between sensor development and camouflage systems and our assessment is that the fewer and more valuable platforms we have, we will need better camouflage performance in order to maintain low probability of detection and short detection distances for an adversary, at least if faced with a technologically mature adversary. Our overall assessment is that bio-inspired adaptive camouflage systems have significant potential for military utility.
If the idea that UCAV are superior in air combat is realizable, we may be facing a paradigm shift of the same magnitude as that which airborne radar or air-to-air missiles introduced. Thus, UCAV are deemed to have potential for significant military utility in future air operations even though it is, at present, hard to predict how they will be used to maximize their military utility.
The following technology was assessed to have uncertain military utility;
Bulk metallic glass (BMG)
If BMG innovations prove to form a new performance step in armour and weapons development, it will from a Swedish perspective be crucial to take part in that development or else take the risk of being inferior on the battlefield. Given the many uncertainties concerning production and applications, we assess BMGs to have uncertain potential for military utility in 2040. However, the SwAF should monitor the development and applications in this area.
None of the studied technologies were found to have negligible military utility. .
The method used in this technology forecast report was to assign each Fraunhofer report to one reviewer in the working group. First, a summary of each forecast report was made. The Fraunhofer assessment of technical readiness level (TRL) in 2030-40 was held to be correct. The technology was then put into one or more scenarios that were assessed to be suitable in order to assess the military utility as well as indicate possibilities and drawbacks of the technologies. Based on a SWOT-analysis, the contribution to SwAF capabilities and the cost in terms of acquisition, C2 footprint, logistic footprint, doctrine/TTP, training, facilities and R&D were assessed. Finally, conclusions regarding the potential military utility of the technology were drawn.
The chosen definition of military utility clearly affects the result of the study. The definition (the military utility of a certain technology is its contribution to the operational capabilities of the SwAF, within identified relevant scenarios) is the same that was used in the Technology Forecast 2013. It is believed to be good enough for this report, but could be further elaborated in the future. An article that in depth presents our concept of military utility has been elaborated at the department.1
Our evaluation of the method used shows that there is a risk that the assessment is biased by the participating experts’ presumptions and experiences from their own field of research. The scenarios that were chosen do not cover all aspects of the technology and their possible contribution to operational capabilities. It should be stressed that we have assessed the four technologies’ potential military utility within the specific presented scenarios, not the technology itself. When additional results have been found in the analysis this is mentioned.
The greatest value of the method used is its simplicity, cost effectiveness and the tradeoff that it promotes learning within the working group. The composition of the working group and the methodology used is believed to provide for a broad and balanced coverage of the technologies under study. This report provides executive summaries of the Fraunhofer and Recorded Future reports and the intention is to help the SwAF Headquarter to evaluate the military utility of emerging technologies within identified relevant scenarios.
Overall, the quality of the Fraunhofer reports is considered to be balanced and of a high level of critical analysis regarding technology development. These reports are in line with our task to evaluate the military utility of the emerging technologies.
We appreciate that the Department of Military Technology at SNDC this time has been involved in the early phase of the Technology Forecast process.
Stockholm: Försvarshögskolan (FHS), 2014. , 29 p.