If, in the year 2042, different countries and criminal groups provoked an international crisis in an ally of the European Union, what capabilities would the EU need to contain it? If such a crisis escalated into a conflict involving multi-domain operations, cyber attacks, unmanned systems and chemical and biological weapons, what might be the EU’s best capabilities mix?
To help answer those questions, the European Defence Agency organised its second tabletop exercise on future threats in Brussels on 21-22 September, following on from a similar simulation in Helsinki in June.
The EDA brought together about 40 experts and military planners to assess the impact of future threats on military capabilities, supported by a fictional scenario outside the European continent in two decades from now, when digital technology, artificial intelligence and computer networks are likely to develop further and present challenges that the EU must be ready for.
Unlike the Helsinki simulation, which focused on an attack on an EU country, the Brussels tabletop exercise, known as TTX, looked beyond to a geopolitical flashpoint scenario in which the country in question is plunged into full-scale armed conflict and becomes a failed state.
The Helsinki and Brussels tabletop exercises are part of efforts to develop the longer-term aspects of the EU’s Capability Development Plan (CDP). The exercises, which are different from tactical wargames, relied on a simulation involving several states as well as criminal organisations.
With a mix of defence planners, technology and innovation experts, as well as foresight analysts, the Brussels and Helsinki exercises also sought to enhance the integrated approach needed to balance the so-called “capability pull” and the “technology push” aspects of military capability development. As in Helsinki, members of the NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) attended as observers.
By discussing the implications of possible future threats, the exercises encompassed land, sea, air, space and cyber, and considered, among other things, the impact of hybrid warfare, the dominance of artificial intelligence-supported systems, conflict in the grey zone between war and peace, and energy concerns affecting all military domains.
Over the course of the two-day simulation in Brussels, which involved adversaries with advanced cyber and space capabilities, the experts and planners sought to learn as much as possible from such a crisis that involved both kinetic and non-kinetic confrontation, preparing for the long-term to consider the full spectrum of military capabilities that might be needed.
The focus was on assessing the long-term capabilities trends and requirements to contribute to the detailed content of the CDP, which is structured by military tasks and time periods, known as the Generic Military Task List (GMTL) and organised in six main capabilities areas.
The look into warfare in 2040 and beyond is part of the CDP’s so-called Strand B. Other strands in the CDP include short- and mid-term analysis, involving lessons from operations, projects and programmes for cooperation, and assessing their impact on capability requirements.
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