Exploring Europe’s capability requirements for 2035 and beyond
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The complex, resource-intensive and time-consuming task of developing new military capabilities requires decisions to be made in the near term to ensure that the armed forces of the 2030s are appropriately equipped to meet the threats and challenges with which they will be faced. For that reason, a multi-disciplinary study on behalf of the European Defence Agency examined possible future capability requirements for the 2035+ timeframe.
Among the findings, the need for conventional weapons systems will persist and the need for cyberspace capabilities will increase. Also, more coordination of existing research and development programmes is needed across the various EDA member states.
Defence capability planning is an ongoing process. Capability plans require regular updating to respond to the evolution of the strategic environment and developments in technology. The European Defence Agency’s Capability Development Plan provides an overview of the future military capability needs of European armed forces. The plan takes into account security and defence challenges in the short, medium and long term, providing recommendations to European militaries on the capabilities they will require to respond to the range of likely future threats.
To support the revision of the long-term strand of the EDA’s Capability Development Plan (CDP), the EDA commissioned RAND Europe, with support from the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), to conduct a multi-disciplinary study examining possible future capability requirements out to 2035+. While the threats faced in this time horizon may be highly uncertain, the complex, resource-intensive and time-consuming task of developing new military capabilities requires decisions to be made in the near term to ensure that the armed forces of the 2030s and beyond are appropriately equipped to meet the threats and challenges with which they may be faced.
In order to understand the military capabilities that EDA Member States may require in the future, the project team:
- Identified new and emerging technologies and strategic and societal developments that might influence capability requirements out to 2035;
- Developed possible long-term scenarios for future conflicts and operations;
- Assessed future military capability requirements across all military tasks, including through a tabletop exercise (TTX) involving capability planners, Research and Technology (R&T) experts and other representatives from the EDA’s participating Member States, the EDA, the EU Military Committee, the European Commission and NATO; and
- Analysed relevant R&T and industrial considerations, including barriers to future delivery by European industry of solutions to the identified capability requirements, and areas of dependency on non-EU third countries for raw materials, components or technology.
- Key future military capability requirements include efficient and secure information-sharing tools, advanced and rapid decision making, effective civil–military cooperation, high levels of force mobility, ability to carry out operations in cyberspace, and use of non-lethal capabilities.
- In order to ensure these capabilities, the need for conventional weapons systems will persist and the need for cyberspace capabilities will increase. Other technologies that may enable European forces’ ability to operate in the future strategic environment are human enhancement (biological, cybernetic, other) technologies, sensors, artificial intelligence, synthetic environments, virtual reality and augmented reality, smart/complex materials, satellites and pseudo-satellites, autonomous systems (incl. manned–unmanned teaming), communication systems, additive and advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, directed energy weapons, electronic weapons, electronic countermeasures and energy generation and storage.
- Research and development programmes are in place in Europe across many of the key enabling technologies, but often are not co-ordinated between different EDA member states. Moreover, within the enabling technologies mentioned above much of the investment and policy initiative is coming from the civilian sector, including multinational and non-EU actors. This implies that there is scope for European collaboration initiatives and programmes for European industry to develop the technologies needed for European militaries in the future.