The first day of “Unmanned Systems Forum: Smart Approach, Fast Development” conference

The first day of “Unmanned Systems Forum: Smart Approach, Fast Development” conference


Opening Remarks

The conference “Unmanned Systems Forum Smart Approach, Fast Development” was opened by Major General (res.) Leonardo Dinu, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, and Air Force General Eugen Mavriș, Rector of the National University of Defense “Carol I”.

Technological developments bring huge opportunities but also many challenges, which is why such a forum dedicated to unmanned systems is so necessary, so that officials, experts and company representatives can discuss the latest developments in the field.

The event started with a speech by the Minister of Defence, Angel Tîlvăr, who underlined the usefulness of such a platform for debate on unmanned systems.  The war in Ukraine shows an intense and massive use of such systems, which have an increasing impact on military strategy. The Defence Minister underlined the efforts of his institution to provide such platforms both through its equipment programmes and the research projects it is developing. In this context, Minister Tîlvăr highlighted the contribution of the New Strategy Center, through the PatriotFest competition, the only innovation competition in the field of defence and national security.

Panel I

The first panel of the day assessed the impact of the war in Ukraine on the security environment a year on from the onset of the invasion. The panel was chaired by MG (Ret.) Leonardo Dinu, with the discussion joined by Lieutenant General Gheorghiţă Vlad, Deputy Chief of Defense Staff, Romania, Admiral (Ret.) Ihor Kabanenko, former Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defnese, Gen. (Ret.) Sir James Everard, former Deputy Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ben Hodges, Member of the International Consultative Board of New Strategy Center and former Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe.

We have seen an increased usage of unmanned systems, which have outlined the importance of mobility and precision on the battlefield. In that sense, Ukraine managed to engage in much more coordinated warfare while using 3 times less shells than Russia. Because of their effectiveness, Ukraine will invest more than half a billion dollars in drones in 2023.

The various scenarios regarding the outcome of the war in Ukraine have been discussed, from a total Ukrainian victory to a stalemate situation. Regarding the aid provided to Ukraine, it is imperative for Kyiv’s allies to propose a Ukrainian Marshall Plan and to address challenges regarding logistics and equipment durability.

Panel II

The conference continued with a panel focused on lessons learned so far from the war in Ukraine and the future of the maritime domain The discussion was chaired by Major General (ret.) Paul Hurmuz, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, who was joined by Vice Admiral Mihai Panait, Chief of Naval Staff, Romania, and Seth Cropsey, President of the Yorktown Institute, USA.

The debate addressed the future of the maritime military in the context of the widespread use of unmanned systems. Russian naval power limited Ukraine’s strategic options in the first phase of the conflict, but later Ukraine succeeded Moscow’s naval power, including unmanned systems that hit Russian ships or guided strikes against them. The speakers explained how, throughout the war, the proper use of coastal defenses and UAVs, as well as Russia’s failure to properly use its traditional naval capabilities, allowed Ukraine to limit Russia’s opportunities to use its material maritime advantages.

Panel III

This panel focused on the use of unmanned systems in modern naval warfare. Captain (ret.) John Sandoz, former Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence, USA, moderator of this panel, was joined by Mr Terry Jamison, Director, Autonomous Aviation & Technology, Defence, Space & Security, Boeing, USA and Vice Admiral (ret.) Bob Harward, former Deputy Commander, US Central Command, USA. The integration of multiple platforms, land, air and naval, the extensive use of naval unmanned systems alongside traditional combat systems in this area will mark the future evolution of modern warfare.

Panel IV

The fourth panel of the first day looked at the most recent developments in investment in strategic infrastructure and training for autonomous vehicles. The discussion was chaired by Brigadier General (Ret.) Eduard Simion, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania. He was joined by Mr. Cătălin Podaru, General Manager, Leviatan, Romania, Mr. Taz Little, CEO & Co-Founder AINautics, USA, Mr. Gabriel Olariu, President, INNOAIRTECH, Romania and Mr. Florin Bănățeanu, Senior Advisor, Deloitte Consultancy, Romania.

The current security situation in the Black Sea region requires a major effort from NATO in terms of sending troops and combat equipment, which in turn requires investments in infrastructure from Romania as host country. The acquisition of new capabilities also means the construction of hangars, depots, maintenance centers, which are equally important and without which it is impossible to speak of an effective deterrence and defence policy.

Panel V

The following panel, chaired by Brigadier General (Ret.) Hans Damen, Member of the International Consultative Board, New Strategy Center and former Head of the Taskforce Logistics/ J4 of the Netherlands, MoD, Netherlands, was dedicated to the Land Domain and the impact of Unmanned Systems. The discussion was joined by Mr. Mykhailo Samus, Director, New Geopolitics Research Network, Ukraine and Mr. Adam Hodges, International Vertical Lift Sales & Marketing, Boeing, USA

Speakers discussed how Ukraine’s asymmetric approach in its fight against Russia is relevant to assessing the impact of unmanned aerial systems in ground warfare. Ukraine’s strategy is based on a centralized network, coordinating command and control centers, weapons platforms and sensor systems. In this way, all weapon systems, from drones to artillery and snipers, are harmonized for maximum effectiveness. Various possibilities for interfacing unmanned systems with conventional combat platforms, such as fighter aircraft, attack helicopters or ISR systems, were also presented to maximize their effectiveness.

Panel VI

The last panel of the first day, chaired by Mr. Greg Melcher, Chief Operations Officer, Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare, USA focused on the battlefields of the future and the land domain in the light of the lessons learned from the Ukrainian front. The panel was joined by General (Ret.) Sir James Everard, Chairman of the International Consultative Board, New Strategy Center, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), UK and Major General Dragoș Iacob, Commander, HQ Multinational Corps South-East, Romania

Speakers presented multiple conclusions drawn from the war in Ukraine. Among these, the importance of speed of decision and action was stressed, as well as the importance of operations in multiple areas and convergence at tactical level. A true intelligence revolution may be underway – the power of open-source information coupled with artificial intelligence must be harnessed. However, the relevance of tanks and especially artillery has not diminished and the will to fight remains the most important factor in a war.