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December 13, 2021

Evolution not revolution: Defence technology predictions for 2022

Military technology was dominated by several broad themes in 2021, and many of these will continue to be the focus for policymakers, armed forces and acquisition programmes in 2022. Berenice Healey asks industry experts for their forecasts for the year ahead.

By Berry Baker

Defence technology doesn’t evolve in a vacuum, and, especially on a timescale as short as a year, new developments are likely to follow in the footsteps of advances made in the preceding year. With this in mind, Global Defence Technology asks industry experts for their predictions for defence in 2022 under the broad banners of sustainability, cybersecurity, policy and Cloud computing.

Sustainability

QinetiQ group corporate responsibility and sustainability director Dr Sam Healy

In 2022, I expect defence organisations across the industry to rapidly increase their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment and climate change, and we are already seeing strong commitment across the sector. 

Limiting the environmental impact of defence will be challenging; defence organisations cannot implement a net-zero strategy at the cost of their ability to develop capabilities that are able to combat the sophisticated threats in the world today. It’s therefore critical to achieve both objectives.

The key to success will be innovation and creative integration of emerging concepts from beyond defence. We will need to look at our entire footprint – from estate and logistics to equipment development and in-service use, as well as leveraging science and technology to develop more sustainable solutions. Capabilities are already being developed, such as hybrid-electric propulsion systems, synthetic training and autonomy as well as testing and evaluating novel solutions. All of these technologies are key to reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Achieving the goal of net-zero will not be possible if organisations act in silos. For widespread sustainable change to be made, it will require collaboration; working together to share knowledge and best practice, innovating together across the supply chain.

Cybersecurity

FortiGuard Labs security insights and global threat alliances chief Derek Manky

Cybercriminals are evolving and becoming more like traditional APT groups; zero-day equipped, destructive, and able to expand their techniques as needed to achieve their goals. We will see attacks spanning further outside of the extended network, even into space, as attackers take advantage of a fragmented perimeter, siloed teams and tools as well as a greatly expanded attack surface. These threats will leave overwhelmed IT teams scrambling to cover every possible avenue of attack.

Nominet Cyber MD David Carroll

Governments around the world will continue to take a more active role in cyber defence during 2022. Economic losses are mounting, supply chain attacks have compromised entire nations, and ransomware now poses a significant threat to national security. 

With cyber now presenting a risk to lives as well as to economies, we are potentially reaching a tipping point where governments will increasingly step in to correct any perceived market failures. 

There will also be increased diplomatic pressure to establish cyber norms and make it harder for cybercriminals to move money. Takedowns will become more common, as international cyber task forces co-operate, pooling intelligence and coordinating response. 

The current approach of the US Government towards Russia and China is unlikely to wane. Expect to see further export restrictions in areas that could be used by adversaries to gain an advantage in cyberspace.   

2022 will be the year when a realisation takes hold that it is unreasonable to expect operators of critical national infrastructure and providers of essential public services to exclusively own national security risk. Hospitals should be focused on keeping people alive and healthy, not combatting international ransomware gangs, and that will be the turn of the tide in the year to come.

Mandiant threat intelligence consultant Jamie Collier

With the assertion of Taliban control and departure of US forces from Afghanistan, Mandiant expects further cyber espionage and information operations. We also expect to see North Korea flex its cyber capabilities to make up for its lack of other instruments of national power.

Ransomware victims will pay millions of dollars to keep stolen data from being published but increasingly will still have that data published by the threat actor. As deepfake technology becomes more widely available in 2022 and beyond, we predict criminal and espionage actors to increasingly integrate manipulated media into their operations to make social engineering more convincing.

Evolution not revolution: Defence technology predictions for 2022

Credit: Seventy Four, Shutterstock.

Policy

NSSLGlobal Director Defence and Space Programmes Neil Fraser 

Defence is constantly reshaping and reprioritising in line with world events. 2021 has been a year of significant change, with the pandemic showing how the military can support civil power. 

The UK’s Carrier Strike Group deployed at reach, clearly demonstrating both national and international ability to project force, and state actors, such as Russia, engaged in activity that endangers the space domain for all. 

At the same time, the UK has issued the Integrated Defence Review, a Defence Command Paper, and most recently the British Army’s Future Soldier programme. Internationally, terrorist organisations are gaining confidence and capability and NATO members are having to consider how to counter Russian intentions. 

All these require a more globally-engaged and responsive military, operating in a multi-domain framework, but often with smaller teams, such as the British Army’s new Ranger organisation, working with local forces. Recce and training tasks, and small force elements deploying by land, sea, and air all need connectivity and information to deliver advantage. 

Small form, resilient, and secure network solutions to access defence and open-source information is key. Multi-security domain and multi-bearer systems support these requirements, and we envisage greater use of satellite communication solutions – on vehicles, in HQs and in the hand – to deliver independent communications, but also with the ability to leverage bearers of opportunity, including a growing use of 5G to support a battlefield internet of things and increasing use of unmanned air, sea, and land platforms for intelligence and support tasks. 

2022 will be a year where much of the changes in the world start to lead to tangible changes in defence.

Cloud computing

Hadean CEO and co-founder Craig Beddis 

Increasingly, we’re seeing the scope of single synthetic environments changing. AI, IoT and AR/VR are enabling us to gather, analyse and project data in far more imaginative ways, culminating in more immersive and complex simulations. 

However, computing these large datasets is difficult, hence why distributed cloud solutions are becoming more pertinent. It unlocks near-unlimited computation power, enabling more realistic operating environments and accurate decision making in complex battlespaces.

CEO Dominik Birgelen

In 2022, Cloud’s scalable and processing capabilities are likely to enable the defence sector to turn huge amounts of data into useful insights within a reasonable time. By leaving complex repetitive tasks to the Cloud, the highly skilled IT staff would be able to focus on performing activities adding more value to the industry in future.

Cloud technology has continued to grow in a range of verticals in 2021. Just a few years ago, associating Cloud technology with defence would have been unheard of but now the technology has proven to be a secure and flexible resource for defence agencies and will keep on growing its presence in 2022. Due to the growing need for greater agility and scalable solutions to respond to an ever-evolving threat landscape, implementing a cloud infrastructure will meet the needs of many defence organisations.

Following the data rules of the UK government, the cloud is expected to enable data sovereignty by keeping the encryption keys outside the cloud which can provide customers with the power to control and decide who can access the data. The offering is anticipated to serve as a facilitator of the secure transformation of sensitive information across the world during missions between forces and allies in the upcoming years.

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