True, the outcome of the conflict depends not only on technology, but also on the morale of the troops … The fact remains: innovation is a key issue in ensuring the operational superiority of armies. A race in which the Agency for Defense Innovation (AID), which started three years ago, is playing the role of a guide. “We allocated 1.4 billion euros for innovation, identified 800 start-ups and small and medium enterprises that we did not know about, including 300 received our services”, points out AID director Emmanuel Chiva. Another figure: last year, 94 projects were awarded and 170 research projects were launched.
Providing efficiency, visibility, transversality and experience, “AID is a real booster”, adds Admiral Pierre Vandieu, Chief of Staff of the French Navy. As for the Chief of Staff of the Aerospace Forces, General Stefan Mill, he praises AID’s responsiveness and ability to think outside the box to accelerate the technological leap affecting the battlefield. “Among the technologies that can bring something completely new to air combat and, in particular, to air superiority, I would name joint combat, connectivity with it, artificial intelligence (AI), directed energy weapons and hypersonic vectors”he explains.
What are the priorities
Several advances appear above and below the ocean: the interconnection of platforms for detecting threats, especially hypersonic ones, and, in particular, the synchronization in several places. “Today, the frigate is also connected by space”, clarifies Admiral Vandier. Among these areas of innovation, AID is tasked with identifying those it wants to accelerate as a priority. To this end, it publishes an annual background paper on defense orientation and innovation. “This year it’s the main version, which will be released around July 14th.”, says Emmanuel Chiva. In 2019, the focus was on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and space, especially New Space. In 2020, the agency added directed energy weapons, quantum, super speed. She is also working on anti-drone combat as well as a project focused on cognitive warfare. Whether they are breakthrough, like quantum, or are part of a continuity, these technologies “now reaching a level of maturity unparalleled”summarizes Emmanuel Chiva.
In the war of tomorrow, drones will play a key role. In particular, within the framework of SCAF (collaborative aviation system of the future). “We have thoughts that allow us to consider joint combat with objects, both manned and unmanned, with drones that can be used and others that can be reused”, explains General Stefan Mill. Drones are also being sent to ships for the mine warfare of tomorrow as part of the SLAMF (Future Anti-Mine Anti-Mine System) program. another track “Solar drone project to secure routes with very high autonomy”, says Emmanuel Chiva. The Defense Innovation Agency is also keeping a close eye on the fight against drones. “The real threat that we are focusing our efforts on today is primarily drone swarms, which can quickly saturate communications or even armaments of an area.”– adds the director of AID.
Turn on the power
In addition to droneization, the cyber defense of naval units is at stake. “Digital technology is a huge driver of progress, including the use of big data to better see through the fog of war,” says Admiral Pierre Vandieu. What will we take to place computer centers on boats. In another area the Americans, Russians, and Chinese today have high-power lasers operational on the battlefield. This is not our case, but it will be, I hope, by the end of the decade,” he adds.
If tricolor funding for military innovation is on the rise, how can we move forward? “Inevitably, there will be delays given the gap in budgets with the United States. But extraordinary budgets also make it possible to be extraordinary wrong.” Chief of Naval Staff warns… Example : “The renewal of the American surface fleet today is facing great difficulties due to an unfortunate choice. In France, we think a lot before launching and rarely make mistakes.” he assures.
The fact remains: in the field of digital technologies, knowledge and use of data France “clear delays”, the admiral admits. On the other hand, in other areas, nuggets such as Quandela, which is developing the first photonic quantum computer, are promising. “And in the field of quantum sensors, France is leading”, welcomes the director of AID. So many opportunities to gain strength again in the world race…