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21 October 2016

Army of the Future: Dual Perspective of Innovation

 

 Sergiy Zgurets

 Director of Defense Express Consulting Company

 

"If we talk about qualitatively effective mechanism for creating innovation, then following the practices of DARPA which is the most respected in the world, we must understand that in Ukraine it must strive for one important component. Namely,  search for people in our own country, create an environment where these people can realize their ideas, offer and create mechanisms of crystallization,  transfer them into concrete products that are required for the state as a whole or the armed forces in particular."

Republished from Ukrainska Pravda: http://bit.ly/2ovyE5C

The issue of economic welfare is a concern of every Ukrainian. But the issue of the country's defence is equally important. Ukrainian army has undergone many severe trials in countering external threats, has proved its fighting capability thanks to the heroism of our defenders.

But we should understand that a weak and outdated equipment is now an Achilles heel of the Ukrainian army, which needs modern weapons created due to innovative projects.

Definition of the word “innovation” is quite general.

In particular, this is the use of new hardware, the use of new technological processes, introduction of products with new properties, the use of new raw materials or new stuff, creation of markets for certain products. And in fact, any introduction is considered an innovation.

Actually, it is exactly what is considered by public and private companies as one of the components to move forward.

This is why innovation is important, of course. Another issue is the quality of innovation.

Why? Because there are global trends, but within the country some thing is an innovation - but in the world this thing is no longer innovative.

When we talk about innovation, it is necessary to envisage the  image  of a product, intended purpose or market, which will exist in ten, twenty, a hundred years or more. And to focus the efforts on this exact purpose.

Anticipating future needs is formalized within certain government resolutions. These government resolutions include such a special thing as  the list of basic and critical technology. That is, this is the basis for the development of new models of armaments, new industrial base.

The list of basic and critical technology exists in all countries. Except for Ukraine for some reason.

Today Ukraine is at the stage where an understanding that we are significantly lagging behind the leaders in technologically innovative solutions is the understanding that the existing system of innovation is hardened, it does not produce geniuses, does not provide a formal process of creating new ideas.

But this seemingly pessimistic conclusion does not mean that we do not need to do anything.

It is this understanding of our point of standing that allows us to find new forms to progress.

Time to set clear benchmarks on what kind of army we are building

Discussing about the effectiveness of certain costs it is necessary to understand certain criteria. This is a problem that does not allow to clearly answer the question of efficiency or inefficiency.

Our point is that today we conduct combat operations. For two years we have doubled the force level and increased defence spending more than 2.5 times.

In fact, we have to manage external risks counting on Soviet armament characterized by excessive military power but poor selectivity, close grouping of shots and accuracy.

However, these armaments are too much so that we are not able to move to a new level of armaments. So all funds to ensure balancing of external aggression are spent on repairs of Soviet arsenals.

When we discuss the question of how effectively, in terms of balancing the Russian threat, money is spent - we can say with every reason: as effectively as possible.

However, if we ask a scientist, he would say that funds are used inefficiently - because global trends in transforming existing discoveries into the existing models of weapons are ignored.

So the question of efficiency should be answered depending on  which field  this question is asked.

Defence industry complex in our conditions solves two problems. First - to provide armed forces with effective armament, second - to exports armament to address economic issue of public revenues.

And in this sense defence industry complex is solving two tasks in one. Taking into account the fact that it has both  public , і and private  component. Both components are trying to solve these tasks simultaneously.

Today, Ukrainian armed forces lack a clear understanding of  what kind of  army we are building. We have a government program of armaments development intended for up to 2020, but there is no government program of development of the Armed Forces. If there is no program of development of the Armed Forces - and before such programs were adopted for a term of 6 years - it does not allow us to make a conclusion what kind of army we want to see not even talking about six, but at least in 15-20 years. Then these benchmarks would allow us to more clearly formulate  the requirements for weapons that we need  today.

And if, relatively speaking, the military says that ‘we do not have enough ammunition or guns’ - I would say that the army is by far lacks intelligence systems, communication systems which ensure approximation of the existing kinetic component to net-centric warfare, where the information, communication and combination of kinetic and information components are of great importance.

The Army and defence industry complex are at the first point where understanding  of inadequacy of the existing structure to future objectives  begins.

In parallel, there is a perception that it is extremely difficult to solve the set tasks through the existing forms and methods. If at all possible.

Innovative developments have to be stimulated by the state

When we talk about Ukrainian products, we need to understand the criteria of innovation.

For example, if we start doing mortars at our enterprises - will they be an innovative product?

From the point of view  of the needs of the armed forces  and in the absence of the occupied market this is an innovation product. From the point of view  of the world trends, such mortars are not innovative products - because we can not sell them in the country that produces mortars twice lighter than ours.

But in any case, I would cite examples of innovative projects among  private  companies – they are quite important and interesting.

For example, this is an attempt of the Odesa-based company to create  robotic boats  that can dive under water and stay there for some time in standby mode, and then go up and hit targets that appear in its zone of responsibility. These works are being performed by a private company and look more or less interesting.

There is another Kyiv-based company engaged in development of  heads for air - to ground - to air missiles  operating in active and passive modes; this is extremely important in terms of creating new models of weapons.

There is a Kyiv-based company engaged in manufacture of  capacitors;  they are purchased even by the US company for its electromagnetic railguns.

There is a Kyiv-based company which manufactures  drones. These are not just drones, they solve the issue of target tracking by creating their own software.

There is a private company which developed  a special gel coating body in case of burns and infections, that can be included in the sanitary kit of infantrymen.

There is a Kyiv-based company which developed  bullets with an armour-piercing capacity much higher than the models adopted by our country and other armies in the world.

These products look theoretically interesting in terms of innovation. The issue of success becomes clear when they proceed from sample to mass production and provide funds for developers to develop the product and create another project.

But it also required that   the state creates  a mechanism that allows introducing these products. And they, in turn, then become the foundation for economic progress.

We need our own innovation development model

Speaking of international experience or examples for work on projects in the defence industry, one can give an example of the American corporation DARPA - it is a division of the US Department of Defence, which is engaged in R & D in the field of defence and creation of innovative projects, if our terminology is used.

It is interesting that DARPA has a budget somewhere within $ 5 billion, while there are only about two hundred employees there, and in fact each runs his project, where there is directly a head and a manger of the project. That is, the project management system is flexible there and it seems to me that each of these people actually has the gift of prediction.

In other words, they  understand  what will be needed tomorrow or the day after.

If we talk about qualitatively effective mechanism for creating innovation, then following the practices of DARPA which is the most respected in the world, we must understand that in Ukraine it must strive for one important component.

Namely,  search for people in our own country, create an environment where these people can realize their ideas, offer and create mechanisms of crystallization,  transfer them into concrete products that are required for the state as a whole or the armed forces in particular.