Urban operations are not just another part in the spectrum of warfare. It is found in every part of it, ranging from high-intensity to low-intensity warfare. As such, there are plenty of historical examples such as those from Stalingrad, Aachen, Hue city and Fallujah, to Grozny, Panama City and the effort to clear Iraqi urban areas from ISIS combatants. Warfare in an urban environment is still important for military planners and will be of extreme importance due to the increasing urbanisation and the potential of a near-peer confrontation between major powers, in densely populated areas of the world.

Listed below are the key technology trends impacting the urban operations theme, as identified by GlobalData.

Multi-mission platforms

In the confined spaces of an urban environment military forces need platforms that will be able to provide additional capabilities in order to maintain tempo and the initiative against the enemy. The industry is showcasing products that address urban operation needs. For example, MBTs and armoured vehicles, which have been upgraded with additional armour protection, an RWS (Remote Weapon Stations), active-protection systems, cameras that provide the crew with 360 degrees situational awareness, hybrid electric energy management systems and engineering systems such as earth movers to reduce the need for mission specific engineering vehicles.


As threats are evolving, modularity can provide the necessary “ground” for the integration of additional capabilities that would be able to be supported by the architecture. For example, a modular vehicle architecture will allow the user to modify it according to the mission requirements. If it will operate in a low-threat environment, it could feature a lighter armour and weapons, making it less intimidating to the population. In case of high-threats, it can be equipped with additional ones, thus reducing the need and the cost for mission-specific platforms.

Joint effects

Considering the government spending shift that followed the end of the Cold War towards social welfare, COTS (Commercial Off-The-Shelf) systems, components or even platforms are increasingly offered to make the acquisition of systems affordable and shorter.

Digital soldier systems

The complexity of the urban environment is such that no single military service or arm can tackle the threats and the requirements of safeguarding a city by itself. Jointness on a higher level and combined arms approaches is the way to success. Coordinating all these stakeholders requires the necessary C2 equipment that will improve the exchange of information and the decision-making process.

Unmanned systems

Digitisation is increasingly finding its way into every system and platform. The nature of the urban environment puts soldiers and small units (squads, platoons) in the epicentre of the battle, thereby increasing the need for situational awareness. Digital soldier systems provide such capabilities. Their cost has impeded their wider use by armies. However, parts of those programs are being implemented in an effort to introduce such technologies incrementally.

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Collateral damage reduction in urban operations

The obstacles of the urban terrain reduce observation and make communication harder. Unmanned systems (ground, maritime, aerial) will provide the necessary persistence in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) missions and communications relay, at a fragment of the cost of their manned counterparts. Unmanned systems can also expand the capabilities of platforms, further enhancing the versatility characteristic at an affordable price.

This is an edited extract from the Urban Defense Operations (Urban Warfare) – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.