Political as well as military transformations are driving major changes at NATO. The alliance is reshaping itself to serve more as a geopolitical security organization than as a purely military one designed for armed deterrence and operations.
Cybermarauders are taking aim at NATO systems both within the alliance and through member nations as experts strive to stay a step ahead of adversaries. The alliance must deal with different security standards along with diverse levels of information system sophistication among member nations.
The Royal Navy is creating an island on an isle in an effort to de-risk advanced communications systems early, easily and with less expense than traditional means. As Britain continues its development of the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, those working with the technology systems have created a mock-up of the ships’ aft island, on which will go an array of equipment. The complexity is necessary for the support of all the personnel who will draw from its resources, and officials with the project are determined to ensure top-notch functionality before the carriers set sail.
A NATO program supporting alliance forces in Southwest Asia takes requests for new capabilities from commanders in the field and rapidly turns them into new equipment and services. The increased pace of operations in the region has provided an additional challenge to a very busy organization, particularly as NATO forces operating in Afghanistan require communications and infrastructure support for operations in that nation’s rugged and undeveloped terrain.
The United Kingdom’s defense industry is in a state of flux that may lead to a potential round of consolidations in the coming years as small and medium-size firms are acquired by larger national and international companies. This fluid state is being caused by two factors: the global economic crisis and upcoming general elections that could put the Conservative party in power for the first time since the late 1990s—a move that would trigger a major strategic assessment of the nation’s defense priorities.
The crystal ball for U.K. communications and information systems is clouding as military priorities and economic realities are combining to limit high-technology spending. The Ministry of Defence has committed to several large-scale programs that will absorb the bulk of equipment procurement money, and it is reining in overall spending as a result of national budgetary constraints arising from the global economic downturn.
British troops operating in Afghanistan and Iraq are using privately owned and maintained unmanned aircraft for battlefield reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The effort effectively leases the aircraft to the military while the private firm covers maintenance and operational costs.
European armies are networking their infantry. Driven by the need for network-centric forces capable of operating in multinational environments, the continent’s ground forces are pushing their information systems down to the individual soldier. But while these modernization programs are underway, nations and companies are taking different approaches to developing and marketing this new equipment.
A multifunction command and control system is providing the Spanish army with increased operational flexibility. The software application contains several discrete applications that form a network-centric information sharing battlefield network. Parts of the system are already in service, with new tools and components readying for deployment.