2019 Position Papers of our partners

You can find below the 2019 Position Papers of our partners :


« How to achieve superiority on the digital battlefield? »

It's more than digitalisation. It's more than transformation. The defence sector is going through a revolution. As we stand today, the reasoned and adequate development and adoption of new technologies already ensure the operational superiority that allows our armed forces to guarantee peace and sovereignty. For many years, Thales has been preparing to step up to the formidable challenges of warfighting in tomorrow's increasingly digitised and connected battlespace.
Innovation and dual technology expertise are written into our genetic code. This is how we can harness the potential of civil technologies and endeavour to bridge the gap between civil and defence through constructive interaction and dialogue. The Digital Factory and Station F, where Thales is the lead on cybersecurity, are early illustrations of these new types of collaboration and how they not only deliver results but are crucial to the ability to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology.
Massive investment in connectivity, Big Data, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity will bring substantial efficiency gains in military operations. These technologies offer many practical benefits, including a connected collaborative combat capability, which is a key goal of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), but also improved security and safety for military personnel. Here are a few examples of how these technologies can support our fundamental strategic capabilities:
  • Providing more effective intelligence. AI is not a new phenomenon, but the convergence of several factors — mature algorithms, computing power and data volumes — has unlocked ever greater investigative potential. It takes experienced military personnel an average of 300 hours to analyse reconnaissance images of an area of 3,000 km²; with an AI-assisted image recognition system, that volume of data can be analysed in real time.
  • Developing the potential of the connected collaborative combat taking shape in the Scorpion programme. Relying on AI, Big Data and cybersecure defence clouds, our augmented C4I[1] system of systems enables connected collaborative combat in joint forces operations, and provides the connectivity needed to support secure end-to-end services for the different air platforms.
  • Supporting predictive maintenance. Using embedded sensors to log usage of our equipment, AI promises to drive efficiency gains in through-life support and fleet management, which is a priority area for our armed forces.
With exploding volumes of unstructured, heterogeneous data, the ability to control data assets and ensure their integrity is also an important differentiator. Conventional technologies are no longer sufficient to capture, store, qualify, prioritise and process these huge volumes of data. Today, Big Data analytics is part of the solution, making it possible to get the right data at the right time and transform it into useful information.
As a result, the defence industry is transforming itself to meet the new requirements of our servicemen and women as defined by the Ministry for the Armed Forces and in line with the priorities of the Defence Innovation Agency (Agence pour l'innovation de défense).
Because the combat ecosystem is transforming, there is a need for digital technology professionals and operational customers to reflect jointly on the digital transformation, and to fully understand the challenges of training, interoperability and cooperation with our European and international allies.
Decision support, collaborative combat, tactical cyber, logistics… the prospects are exciting and full of promise, but they must not conceal a number of important constraints linked to the use of new technologies. Our ability to work within those constraints and offer tangible solutions in a responsible, cybersecure and ethical manner is critical for the future.
Cybersecurity is now a core functionality of all military systems. Defence systems are more and more interconnected, and as such they need to be cybersecure by design to withstand exponential growth in the threat environment, and to guarantee that the decision chain continues to function and can be trusted at all times. Our system safety, strategic information and freedom of action are at stake.
But beyond these technical concerns, ethical considerations must be central to our approach, just as they are in the policies adopted by the armed forces. How is it possible to operate on a digital battlefield, deploying systems with ever greater levels of intelligence and autonomy, without addressing the issue of accountability? We advocate an approach to artificial intelligence that we call Thales TrUE AI — Transparent AI, where users can see the data used to reach a conclusion; Understandable AI that can explain and justify the results; and Ethical AI that follows objective protocols and laws, and protects human rights.
What's at stake here is the moral responsibility of each individual and our ability to unleash human potential through constructive interaction with machines. The image of "killer robots" fomented by certain parties misses the point.
Trust is not a given — it has to be earned. Trust does not depend on tools and systems but on the context in which they are deployed and the limits we set on their use. Our Charter on Ethics and Digital Transformation draws our red lines for military applications: "augmenting" humans to help them make the best choices, while always ensuring that they stay in control of the final decision, is what guides our work on a day-to-day basis.
By leveraging the potential of digital technologies with discernment and responsibility, the defence sector is stepping up to the compelling challenges of contemporary conflicts. The goal is to develop systems for a context like no other, a context that demands absolute efficiency, constant adaptability and resilience, and unadulterated consciousness. In short, our common objective must be to use digital tools to fight smarter in a digital battlespace. Let us step up to our responsibilities on this revolutionised battlefield by offering a vision of the theatre of operations and a range of appropriate solutions that we can be proud of.
[1] Computerised Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence