Deterrence on the Eastern Flank
NATO’s Eastern Flank now faces the unthinkable – the very real threat from a Russia deter-mined to re- assert itself and seek new ways to achieve its ambitions in Ukraine. This threat is simultaneously both acute and chronic as Russia will remain a significant military force for some time. The growth of the Alliance has increased the length of the border area which must be resourced to deter and, if necessary, defend. Current force numbers mean this will be impossible through mass alone, munition shortages across Europe means any major defence would be measured in hours rather than weeks or months.
Technology must be employed as a force multiplier. Whilst people, effectors and munitions are in short supply, sensors are plentiful. The Eastern Flank can gain a deterrence advantage by leveraging the digital nature of the new equipment covered elsewhere in this paper and generating soft-ware-defined, AI-enabled sensor fusion and targeting cycles that deliver effects faster than is conventionally possible. Platforms will continue to play a key role. However, most are reaching the limits of what is physically possible whilst their costs spiral upwards. Furthermore, many programmes will face delays, France’s Jaguar will not enter service until 2030, five years behind schedule.
The UK’s Ajax is approaching ten years behind schedule – it is unfortunately common for modern platforms to take a long time to mature. That, and manufacturing capacity for new platforms in Europe has declined since the end of the Cold War, which will further constrain the ability to introduce new hardware and force the Eastern Flank to rely on what equipment it already has. Softwaredefined capability transformation can be achieved at the pace of relevance by introducing AI-enabled edge processing capabilities onto existing platforms. This type of solution can be scaled with ease because it is platform agnostic. It can also evolve with the threat in ways that physical platforms cannot.
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