The Digital Transformation of Defence (Part One) – Transitions and the ‘Backbone’

Defence Business Development and Product Marketing Director Nick Brown shares some initial thoughts on Hadean and the Digital ‘Arms Race’…

23 March 2022
Nick Brown

We stand at a crossroads. Technology is experiencing development akin to that evident during the industrial revolution.  The mass proliferation of personal devices, our gateways to Web 3.0 and a metaverse, is changing the world forever…

I wrote that introduction a few weeks ago before recent events in Ukraine placed infinitely more meaning to the concept of standing at a crossroads; or perhaps the brink. The full impact of Russia’s ‘Special Operation’ will be known in time, but we are already seeing commitments from Western nations to increase spending on Defence and a refocus on a more traditional, conventional threat. Industry and Technology will need to continue to support Governments and Militaries in fully exploiting current and emerging technologies and tailor them to their own specific needs. In my mind there remains an obligation on industry to ensure that the men and women of our Armed Forces are provided with the very best training, equipment, services and support necessary to successfully, and safely, execute their mission.

Heavy start… but that is very much the mood of the day.  My intended theme for this introductory Blog was going to be transition and transformation; perhaps this remains valid even in spite of the gravity of global events.  I have myself experienced a period of transition: out of uniform and into business. But the horror of what we are witnessing each day has reminded me why I remain dedicated to adding value wherever possible to those who remain in uniform and in harm’s way.

Having joined Hadean in January this year and made an initial visit to our very smart central London office, I was struck how little it seemed a 40-odd year old, gilet-wearing, ex-Army Officer might have in common with a young, hip, tech start-up. I was very quickly relieved at how superficial this impression had been. It was clear to me that we all share a culture obsessed with ‘customer success’ (i.e. a focus on the benefits provided to the ‘end user’), delivered through an ethos of constant innovation, resilience, trust and boldness.

Militaries across the world are also in transition.  Digital transformation, optimised and fully integrated training systems, and the rapid application of objective data to decision making are no longer a vision of the future, they are a reality now. But the level of intellectual and financial investment to realise the benefits of these technological advances requires a change in culture and openness to industry partnerships, and industry collaboration must expand too.  The next great innovation may well emerge from an SME rather than a recognised large defence company; government processes must be able accommodate the pace of digital or technological development or the moment will be lost – as will the Digital ‘Arms Race’ with our adversaries. 

In the UK the MOD aims to realise its Defence Digital Strategy by connecting sensors, effectors and deciders across military and business domains. A Digital Backbone and a Digital Foundry will enable AI and synthetics at scale to support the vision. 

Figure 1. UK MOD Digital Backbone
(Source: Digital Strategy for Defence, April 2021)

Likewise across the pond the US DoD has recognised the need to fully exploit technology and its benefits through the Digital and Software Modernization strategies.

Figure 2. US DoD Digital Modernization 
(Source: US DoD Digital Modernization Strategy, July 2019)

It was reassuring at a recent Industry engagement event that there is a genuine desire to work with Industry (including SMEs) and drive as much agility into the procurement process as possible. We’ve heard this before; this time it has to work. It is this approach that will undoubtedly contribute to Defence’s ability to rapidly exploit emerging and innovative technologies, successfully deliver meaningful transformation, and handle new threats from old adversaries.

In the coming weeks, and as we prepare for IT²EC, further blog posts and a webinar will explore some of the innovative solutions and use cases we have been working on with some of our Defence partners:

  • Synthetic Training Environments
  • Data-driven Decision Support
  • Enhanced Situational Awareness
  • Digital Twins

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