21 Jul 2017

RUSI examines Defence Innovation and the UK

RUSI experts have delivered a new paper that examines Defence Innovation and the UK, and implications of the US Third Offset Strategy.

Delivered by Professor John Louth, Professor Trevor Taylor and Doctor Andrew Tyler, the paper looks at UK defence equipment and its vulnerabilities, suggesting there needs to be more commitment to research, innovation and adaptive technologies.

In 2014 the US government announced that a step-level change in capabilities was required to counter growing technologies from hostile states. The Third Offset Strategy (TOS) emphasised the need for innovation at every level of defence, and that technological change to counter the increasing anti-access/area denial systems held a significant role.

The paper is the result of research and workshops which brought together senior stakeholders from the governments and private sectors of the UK, the US and continental Europe.

The British Ministry of Defence launched its own Defence Innovation Initiative in September 2016, in response to the US’s TOS, committing £80M over a decade for research. The Initiative also assured the MoD’s core science and technology budget at a minimum of 1.2% of the defence budget.

Results from the paper show:

  • Agreement with the core assertion of TOS – that potential adversaries have developed or are developing threats to major Western platforms, and they continue to develop offensive cyber capabilities and technologies that threaten the Western use of space for surveillance, communication, navigation and other purposes.
  • UK defence equipment capabilities are increasingly vulnerable to low-cost, technology-rich weapons from hostile states.
  • A focus on offensive systems over protective capabilities in UK defence equipment means a urgent need for research, innovation and adaptive technologies for defence.
  • In any major future conflict, an important part of the battle will be threats to the UK’s critical national infrastructure from hostile cyber operations.
  • significant changes to encourage a stronger innovation culture within government defence. These should involve:
  • Establishing an appetite for risk in the public and private parts of the UK defence enterprise that recognises the need for experimentation and the inevitability of regular failure.
  • A range of technologies (including those at low, medium and high technology readiness levels) should be supported, and the balance managed between upgrading existing assets and the development of novel capabilities and systems.
  • Reinforcing government readiness to work closely with the private sector, taking forward such arrangements as Niteworks and the UK Defence Solutions Centre.
  • Reviewing the Defence Equipment Plan published in January 2017 to ensure that innovation is a guiding principle for capital investment.
Images: © Crown Copyright. Pictured are members of the Grenadier Guards taking a break during Exercise Noble Jump 17.


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