November 30, 2023

Are New and Emerging Technologies Game-Changers for Smaller Powers?

Nagorno-Karabakh, 2020. As tensions rose in between Armenia and Azerbaijan, tiny clashes before long turned into overcome. Instead of a common battlefield dominated by main fight tanks and artillery, armed drones turned out to be activity-changers. Applying Turkish-produced drones, Azerbaijani forces destroyed a lot of enemy tanks and armored vehicles, leaving the tactically dislocated Armenian facet not able to reply. Military services analysts about the planet took observe: New technological know-how and abilities could influence results on the modern-day battlefield.

When the integration of new know-how is discussed, on the other hand, the viewpoint of scaled-down states is generally absent. For us, this is particular: One particular of us is the head of Swedish joint functions and the other is an infantry squad leader in the Swedish Military Reserves. These encounters and hard thoughts drove us to create a ebook collectively: Strategic Possibilities: The Foreseeable future of Swedish Stability. In this reserve, we examine how smaller sized states, out of shortage of methods, typically have to uncover inventive and revolutionary means to adopt engineering to overcome, or at least offset, the rewards a perfectly-resourced opponent could possibly have. Though the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been about evenly matched in turns of figures, the way both equally sides employed unique concepts and platforms gives essential lessons for smaller states experiencing even larger enemies. Scaled-down states can establish uneven advantages that could build navy issues for more substantial adversaries via well-imagined-out principles that mix ability enhancement, doctrines, schooling, exercises, and — of study course — operations. In standard, smaller states do not have access to the full spectrum of the most recent systems. In purchase to maximize operational impact towards a bigger adversary, the use of armed service capabilities based on new technologies ought to be accompanied by smart ways and methods.

The Long term of War Is In this article

We are now getting into into what is typically referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, which is characterised by the fusion of systems and platforms in the variety of a “system of devices.” New technology characterizes this improvement, permitting more quickly facts transfer as a result of improved mobile networks (5G), interconnected elements (the “internet of things”), autonomous devices, additive production (3D printing), biotechnology, and AI supported by machine studying with the capacity to procedure significant quantities of details. These evolutions and revolutions could lead to the spectacular and swift transformation of all human things to do, which includes army functions.



In earlier industrial revolutions, innovation was integrated into armed forces capabilities, these types of as weapons programs, logistics, and organization. The fourth industrial revolution will be no diverse. In addition, the civilian sector, both of those in business and in academia, mostly drives technological progress these days. The standard protection industrial sectors of many nations around the world now locate it difficult to match the rate of innovation in improvement-concentrated and expense-oriented companies. For that reason, any one who is able to acquire interfaces concerning civilian-driven innovation and navy capability enhancement will most likely delight in a amount of operational positive aspects in the not-far too-distant foreseeable future.

You Say You Want a Revolution…

In the context of military services ideas and abilities, it is uncomplicated to use the time period “revolution” as a rhetorical machine to argue for immediate and transformative adjust. However, by embracing the concept of a military revolution, there is a risk that current abilities may well be dismantled prematurely. The noticeable danger is of shedding the means to deal with navy complications in the here and now, even though betting on abilities that may well just take years to actually materialize and mature. The Swedish downsizing of each the armed service and civilian defense following the conclude of the Chilly War (typically referred to as the Swedish Whole Protection Thought) serves as an illustration of this. A rather cautiously initiated disengagement from territorial protection, which had served Sweden very well throughout the Cold War, was adopted by a series of sweeping actions in the defense payments of 1996, 2000, and 2001. The last blow was introduced in the 2004 bill, which essentially transformed the design and style of Swedish defense, in phrases of the two quantity and functionality. 1 of the factors that strongly accelerated the reorientation of the armed service was the “network-centric defense strategy,” which is partly based mostly on American studies and principle growth, presented as the “revolution in armed service affairs.”

The finish of the Chilly War introduced about a “strategic timeout,” which allegedly produced fantastic problems for obtaining rid of the outdated and starting to experiment with the new. On the other hand, the promise of floor-breaking new capabilities under no circumstances materialized, although the principle was even now made use of to inspire a continuing downsizing. The conclusions made between 1996 and 2004 in quite a few means represent the backdrop of today’s troubles to the Swedish Defense Concept. From the close of the Chilly War up to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Sweden and its armed forces concentrated on global disaster administration and security functions. Overseas engagements dominated all relevant procedures inside the Swedish armed forces. There was also a superior stage of ambition invested into the European Union’s High Readiness Principle, together with the E.U. Fight Group Thought.

There ended up various warning symptoms stemming from functions in states neighboring Russia. The Russo-Georgian war in August 2008 was adopted not only by a centered ability create-up in Russia, but also much more assertive habits in, for instance, the Baltic Sea region. It was, nevertheless, not till Russia’s annexation of Crimea that Sweden and other European international locations commenced to place protection and defense at the forefront of their political agendas. The Swedish Parliament passed two defense bills in 2015 and 2020, constituting the begin of a sizeable buildup of military services ability. In 2015, the Swedish defense finances was around $4 billion per calendar year. In 2021, the funds has enhanced to $6 billion per yr, continuing to increase to $9 billion per calendar year in 2025.

Conscription was re-launched in 2018, and the range of personnel will increase from some 55,000 to 90,000 in considerably less than 10 a long time. The K 4 regiment in Arvidsjaur will be propped up to establish and coach a second Arctic Ranger Battalion. The I 21 regiment in Sollefteå will be re-founded with a detachment in Östersund. In total, it will be accountable for the development and education of two new infantry battalions. Also, the I 13 regiment in Falun will be re-established and will have obligation for the growth and coaching of a new infantry battalion. The AMF 4 regiment will be re-proven in Gothenburg and will be liable for the development and training of a new amphibious battalion. Nevertheless to appear through 2022 is the re-institution of the A 9 regiment in Kristinehamn, which will establish two new divisional artillery battalions.

It is a significant problem to remodel a armed service that had been targeted on abroad deployments for 20 several years to a power capable of competing with a important or wonderful energy. This has implications for every thing ranging from human means to conceptual frameworks. Experiencing this, it is really worth asking if nations around the world like Sweden have to method opponents symmetrically. Will compact and medium states ever be equipped to deal with a crisis or a war involving a militarily effectively-resourced and capable opponent if they keep on to compete by applying a entirely reciprocal tactic to capacity growth? In our ebook, we argue that the present pressure constantly types the baseline for protection here and now. International locations like Sweden should build and apply expertise about new and emerging technologies in just the recent drive. They ought to also establish choice points when significant shifts of defense concepts may well choose location, as well as necessities for them.

Instead of remaining seduced by the concept of revolution with the hope of speedy and radical adjustments, there are quite a few motives to lean toward an evolutionary technique, albeit from time to time with slightly innovative factors. A state’s security problem is rarely consistent, but it alternatively fluctuates with external developments and subsequent geopolitical and geostrategic circumstances. The obstacle is to produce a force that is able of dealing with foreseeable future threats without having getting to be not able to react to unexpected crises or conflicts in the present. For the smaller condition, the expenses of strategic miscalculation are ordinarily a lot better than for a bigger state. It is within this context that we look at how more compact states can harmony amongst, on the 1 hand, the pitfalls of getting too conservative and resistant to new know-how and modify but, on the other hand, staying too inclined to hype and unproven units. When leaning as well greatly toward possibly of these extremes, one will likely facial area the threat of making a power irrelevant towards an adversary on the battlefield.

A Guidebook for Smaller sized States

From the perspective of a little- or medium-sized point out, various distinct approaches could assistance the application of new technologies when forming military capabilities. New engineering should really be adopted progressively and based on existing platforms and systems. This is a structured way to improve operational abilities stage by phase and simultaneously create know-how on how to use new technology. The obtained awareness would then sort a natural basis for choices on main know-how shifts in help of a a lot more complete go to create and employ new abilities. This gradual solution could also support the constructing of belief, not just amid determination-makers but also within just a country’s wider populace.

The suggested strategy also lets for an tailored alignment of new and rising systems with the necessity to build a legal framework in accordance with a country’s strategic society, values, and insurance policies. This method involves a thorough strategic baseline with obvious conclusion factors on when and how to make engineering leaps, although bearing in intellect the retention of a pertinent navy capacity in purchase to be able to proactively deal with existing safety worries. There is no such detail as a strategic timeout. The evolutionary strategy should continue to be little and medium states’ most popular method to the introduction of new and emerging systems in their armed forces. For noticeable causes, this requires to be not only accompanied by, but also guided by, effectively-well balanced ideas and doctrines leading to the identification of niches in which new technological know-how could rapidly make an impact. These types of spots could include the introduction of AI supported by device discovering in guidance of military services choice-producing, or the use of small satellites in help of enhanced sensor coverage.

Civilian actors — this kind of as innovation hubs, universities, and research facilities, as perfectly as enterprises in distinct varieties — generally travel, and will go on to travel, technological growth. The rate of improvement cycles is presently large and will speedily come to be even quicker. This often stands in stark contrast to the cultures of government-controlled arranging and acquisition bureaucracies, which are commonly really cumbersome and do not shift at the pace of strategic or operational relevance. This circumstance calls for new kinds of cooperation and engagement among governments, enterprises, innovation hubs, and academia. This sort of cooperation ought to try to cater to the best disorders feasible for all pieces, phases, and features of know-how improvement. On the other hand, this would also require governmental actors to create apparent strategies and methodological assist to aid well timed final decision-creating on whether to go on with unique tasks. The latter is of significant relevance. Leaders of small states need to have the capability and courage to cancel big jobs if it is clear that they will soon be out of date.

At the Speed of Relevance

There are superior motives for tiny and medium-sized international locations to be open to new technological innovation. On the other hand, a single really should not simply attempt to mirror the abilities of other international locations and possible adversaries without having a proper analysis of the needs of a particular strategic context, as effectively as other parameters in the precise operational natural environment. The armed forces capabilities concerned in accomplishing greatest operational influence against an adversary do not essentially entirely mirror the abilities essential to defend oneself towards that same adversary. Technological innovation enhancement as a component of military services functionality enhancement desires to be centered on balanced possibilities and calculated risk-taking. Additionally, just because a technological innovation exists or because a opportunity opponent may well possess a specified functionality, 1 does not generally have to tactic that engineering or capability in a linear way.

Constructing understanding about the impression of new and rising technologies continues to be a important component that underlines the worth of conducting analysis, studies, experiments, and trials in buy to detect one’s possess weak spots, as effectively as all those of likely adversaries. These actions should also be carried out at a rate that reflects speedy improvement in regions ranging from autonomous techniques to biotechnology. Profound and operationally conceptualized awareness also boosts a state’s success as a buyer on both of those the domestic and the worldwide protection markets. States that absence an institutionalized way of constructing a applicable level of understanding and know-how on new technologies are typically at danger of turning into fully dependent on exterior producers. This could make strategic dependencies that may well restrict unbiased decision-creating, primarily in a crisis or in situations of war. In the case of Sweden, the govt has identified a couple areas that are to be regarded as essential national safety passions and, as this kind of, need domestic growth, design, and output. These areas are also accompanied by relatively big and lengthy-expression economic commitments, which of program also have a established of difficulties that demands extensive and regular scrutiny. The apparent threat of making it possible for the national protection sector to create the “fat cat syndrome” via long-time period commitments from the govt really should be mitigated by means of a dialogue supported by contractual relationships with very clear specifications, demands, and needs, as properly as a popular culture on each sides of the desk.

Tricky Possibilities

Strategic alternatives are, by their nature, tough and complex, and the queries that new and rising technologies pose to us are all individually demanding. Nevertheless, the capabilities of the so-identified as fourth industrial revolution, with its “system of systems” approach, will have to be mirrored in how these new technologies are merged into new or enhanced military abilities. This also puts additional emphasis on the worth of a detailed solution and highlights that nations around the world require to be open-minded and not allow for by themselves to get boxed in by traditional thought and outdated styles.

Innovation and technological development normally direct to challenges of different extents. Sweden, and numerous other modest and medium-sized nations, confront numerous strategic selections in the fairly in the vicinity of long term, which will be dependent on necessities generated by and via ongoing innovation and technological innovation advancement. Therefore, it is also critical to determine the extensive record of emerging opportunities that will be generated. These new systems generate prospects to offer with the two existing and long run threats, maybe also to a bigger extent as a result of asymmetry and non-linear alternatives. The potential to come across pragmatic trade-offs and compromises will keep on to be a requirement for the thriving enhancement of scaled-down-point out defense policy concepts. New and rising technologies may as a result present a new arena for tiny and medium states in which they can exploit opportunities to offset the abilities of bigger and greater-resourced adversaries — but only if they are courageous sufficient to get the opportunity.



Lt. Gen. Michael Claesson is the chief of joint functions of the Swedish Armed Forces. He has beforehand served as chief of the plan and plans office in the Protection Employees, armed forces adviser in the overseas and protection ministries, and commanding officer of the Swedish military services contingent in Afghanistan. He is also a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of War Science.

Zebulon Carlander is the software supervisor for Security Policy at the non-governmental group Culture & Defense. He has beforehand co-edited a guide on Swedish defense plan and also serves as an infantry squad leader in the Swedish Military Reserves.

Graphic: U.S. Maritime Corps (Image by Pfc. Sarah Pysher)