EUROSATORY: Place Orders for the Next Decade and Everything Will Be Fine 17/06/2024 | Marco Giulio Barone

As we prepare for Eurosatory defence exhibition, the global security landscape has undergone seismic shifts, underscoring the critical importance of this premier event. The ongoing war in Ukraine, the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the evolving dynamics within the European defence industry have brought into sharp focus the need for robust military capabilities, innovative technologies, and strategic partnerships. Horizontal and vertical shocks triggered by the wealth of global tensions and conflicts sent shockwaves throughout the international community, challenging long-held assumptions about security and stability, especially in Europe. This not only highlighted the importance of military preparedness but also the necessity for effective long-term deterrence and resilient defence systems. As nations grapple with the implications of these crises, Eurosatory provides a vital platform for showcasing the latest advancements in military hardware, software, and strategic planning. Furthermore, wars reignited discussions on deeper European defence integration and strategic autonomy. While progress has been made with initiatives like PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and EDF (European Defence Fund), there are still divergences among EU members on the extent of integration desired. The conflict has highlighted the need for a more coherent and robust European defence policy and France – the hosting country – is the main promoter of more autonomy from the US as security provider. However, while defence industrialists across Europe are trying to gain momentum to finally accomplish key programmes that have been breeding in their R&D departments for years, politicians keep taking time as the main strategy in the hope that something magic will happen and will avoid the so politically undesired raise of defence spending (they hate spelling out the word W-A-R on the media). From this perspective, Eurosatory will represent an occasion to measure up the effective balance between desired end-states of the different stakeholders and reality. In particular, what is really needed after two years of talks, negotiations, and debates is a concrete step: placing orders and pledging resources. Heavy money, now, not in 2027, 2030, 2050, to leave holding the hot potato to the next government. Subsidies promised, and then reduced, and then re-promised are not the right solution. What industrialists need to thoroughly address the production capability gap is that orders for thousands, hundreds of thousands of items will be placed, and that will continue for at least a decade, so to justify the massive investment required to double or triple production capabilities. The slight improvements in defence budgets in Europe confirm that the subject is more relevant than in the past. But political agendas across Europe do not seem reshuffled enough to be consistent with the change of era – not simply a contingency situation. Announcements made at Eurosatory – and their order of magnitude – will help understanding where Europe is in terms of situational awareness and will to counter the decadence of its defence capabilities. Europe's defence industry has long been a driving force in technological innovation and military prowess. However, in the face of shifting geopolitical dynamics and budgetary constraints, the need for collaboration and strategic partnerships has become increasingly apparent, as new technologies are so multidisciplinary that no stakeholder possesses in-house all the necessary ingredients to build comprehensive solutions to deal with today’s battlefield. This is also why large companies are expanding through the acquisition of small, highly innovative companies and start-ups, and they even get to major M&A (Merger & Acquisitions) among them. As far as innovation is concerned, in the coming days, we will witness cutting-edge technologies, groundbreaking strategies, and thought-provoking discussions that will undoubtedly shape the course of global security for years to come. At the forefront of this technological revolution is the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a domain that has garnered significant attention and investment from military forces worldwide. The exhibition will be populated of numerous demonstrations of AI's potential applications, ranging from image processing for enhanced target detection and tracking to natural language processing for intelligence gathering and document summarization. AI-powered decision support systems promise to provide military commanders with qualified information, enabling them to make informed decisions in the heat of battle. However, AI's impact extends far beyond these applications. The integration of AI into autonomous systems is paving the way for a future where robotic platforms could undertake a myriad of tasks, from logistics and reconnaissance to combat roles. While the reliability and standardization of these systems remain challenges, the potential for AI to transform military capabilities is undeniable. From autonomous navigation systems to robotic platforms designed for a wide range of military applications, the exhibition will showcase the incredible potential of these technologies to revolutionize warfare. Unmanned assets have shown their full potential in Ukraine and in the Israel-Gaza war, and – if produced in big numbers – they might represent a shortcut to create the combat mass that is missing in Europe today. Beyond these cutting-edge advancements, the exhibition will also explore the potential of biotechnology and human augmentation. Genomics and augmented soldier technologies are potential areas that could impact future warfare, blurring the lines between human and machine. Amidst these inspiring displays of innovation capability, the exhibition also highlights the importance of dual-use technologies. From new materials and 3D printing to renewable energy sources and blockchain, these technologies hold the promise of not only enhancing military capabilities but also driving progress in civilian sectors. It is clear that the future battlespace is being reshaped, challenging long-held assumptions and ushering in a new era of military innovation. However, this enormous potential will have a real impact on European security and geopolitics if European countries will be able to rapidly inflate these new technology findings into combat ready products, and to have them deployed in large quantities in a reasonable time frame – any reference to too long and often redundant certification processes is not coincidental at all.

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