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Tabletop Exercise to explore future military capabilities

In the framework of the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP), EDA organised a Tabletop Exercise in Helsinki on 1/2 June 2022, hosted by the Finnish Ministry of Defence.  The aim of the exercise, which gathered about 40 experts and defence capability planners from EDA participating Member States, was to identify the long-term capability trends and needs beyond 2040 based on potential future generic conflict scenarios and impact of expected technological innovation suitable for military capabilities at this timeframe. The findings and conclusions of the exercise will nourish the so-called ‘Strand B’ (long-term) input for the CDP revision. 

The focus was on assessing the long-term capabilities trends and requirements expressed according to the Generic Military Task List (GMTL) organised in six main capabilities areas which structures the CDP.

For this purpose, the Tabletop Exercise (TTX) was conducted based on a specific scenario designed to address the full spectrum of conventional military capabilities. The scenario was based on a general context derived from official Foresight Analyses, and on specific military trends, taking into account the technological impact on future warfare, in particular the Emerging Disruptive Technologies (EDT) and innovative warfare. This fictitious environment took place in the year 2040+ and referred to a generic EU Member State having to face external and hostile actions which, eventually, escalated to a full-scale armed conflict. The scope of the state and non-state actors, the geographic background and the specific events were to highlight the capabilities needed in the timeframe of 20 years + ahead to face such a threat, both from a material and non-material perspective.

The TTX stretched over two full working days and involved the participation of Member States’ representatives, EDA subject matter experts and other experts from EU defence and security entities. The audience represented a mix of defence planners, technology/innovation experts, and foresight analysts, enhancing the integrated approach needed to balance the “Capability Pull” and the “Technology Push” of military capability development. Furthermore, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) also attended the TTX, as observers. The exercise entailed both plenary sessions as well as split sessions in which 3 different groups of experts addressed specific capability areas. Moreover, they discussed the implications of the possible future threats, encompassing all military domains, and considering, among others, the impact of the hybrid warfare and the cognitive dimension. All the findings of the working sessions and the trends identified will be considered to assess the level of importance of the generic military tasks (GMTL), in order to anticipate and prioritise the future military requirements. 


The EU Capability Development Priorities derived from the Capability Development Plan (CDP) provide a key reference for Member States' capability development endeavours and EU defence initiatives such as the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). These priorities are based on the input from the four strands of the CDP:

  • Strand A – CSDP military capability shortfalls derived from the EU Headline Goal Process;
  • Strand B – Long-term capability development trends;
  • Strand C – Member States’ defence plans and programmes;
  • Strand D – Lessons learned from missions and operations.

Strand B identifies future capability requirement based on key strategic factors, and expected technological innovation, that may be relevant to support the development of defence and security capabilities in the timeframe of 20+ years ahead. The aim of Strand B is not to predict the future, but to anticipate defence capability needs, and related development, resulting from an assessment of various possible factors, including best use of technological progress, when it will be available. Subsequently, the CDP Strand B informs R&T work and long-term capability activities in the EDA framework and facilitates the linkage of the R&T activities to capability development. The resulting Strand B long-term capability assessment, with the impact of technology on future military requirements, will feed the CDP prioritisation mechanism, providing future level of importance of military tasks in the timeframe of 20+ years ahead. 

The Strand B work is benefiting from the EDA Technology Foresight Exercise 2021, which provides technology trends with an outlook to 2040+, and from the Technology Themes assessment updated with the contribution of EDA’s Capability and Technology Groups (CapTechs).