The second day of the “Unmanned Systems Forum Smart Approach, Fast Development” started with a panel dedicated to the legal aspects and the challenges the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) industry is facing, moderated by Mr Augustin Lupu, President, UVS Romania Association, Romania. The speakers were Mrs Nicoleta Pauliuc, Chairwoman of the Committee for National Defence, Senate, Parliament of Romania, Mr Remus Dogaru, Civil Aviation Authority, Head of the National Certification Department/Airworthiness Directorate, Romania, and Commander Florin Bălan, Director of the National Military Aviation Authority, Romania.
The recent legislative developments regarding the regulation of the use of unmanned systems at European and national level were discussed. Commercial drones have grown exponentially in the last decade and their relevance has increased with the war in Ukraine, where not only military drones but also commercial ones adapted to the conflict are used. The discussions also revealed the need to improve legislation for the procurement of military equipment, including unmanned systems, and to adapt bureaucracy to the speed at which technology in the field is evolving.
Entitled “Critical Infrastructure on the Economic Exclusive Zone of Romania. How Can We Better Protect Energy Projects?”, was moderated by Mr Laurențiu Pachiu, Vice President, Energy Policy Group, Romania, and hosted the following speakers: Rear Admiral Liviu Coman, Lieutenant for Operations and Training to the Chief of the Romanian Naval Forces, and Brigadier General Anton Rog, Director, National CyberInt Centre, Romanian Intelligence Service. Discussions focused on the myriad of challenges in the naval and cyber domain, especially those targeting critical energy infrastructure.
The same topic was addressed in a second session, VIIIb, entitled “Critical Infrastructure on the Economic Exclusive Zone of Romania. How Can We Better Protect Energy Projects? Lessons Learned from Other States”, this time from the perspective of the experience of other countries and the private sector. The panel was moderated by Mr. Ionel Pavel, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, and was joined by Mr. Alexandru Maximescu, Vice President, OMV Petrom, Romania, Clément Therme, Non-resident Fellow at the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) in Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Jakub Godzimisrki, Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs – NUPI.
Romania will develop the largest energy project in the Black Sea Exclusive Economic Zone, Neptun Deep, which will not only ensure our country’s annual gas consumption, but it may also contribute to the region’s energy independence. In this context, the investors involved in this project will cooperate with Romanian institutions to ensure the protection of the entire gas exploitation infrastructure and platforms. The foreign experts also presented, among other things, Norway’s actions to protect its North Sea energy infrastructure and Saudi Arabia’s experience against drones, especially after past incidents at its refineries.
Russia has conducted limited air operations in the war with Ukraine despite clear superiority. The lack of connection between the Russian air force and other armed forces has led to these poor results. After various phases of the war in which Ukraine’s allies provided mainly defensive equipment, now, with the deliveries of tanks and discussions of fighter jet deliveries, the offensive phase is entering a more dynamic phase.
The next panel was also related to the air domain, but with a clearer focus on the defense of the Black Sea region. It was moderated by COL (AF) (Ret) Mihai Știr, associated expert New Strategy Center, Romania, while the speakers were Mr. Christophe Fontaine, Vice president for concept and capabilities development NATO/EU International Strategic Development, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., USA, and Mr. Or Mastey, UAS specialist, IAI, Israel.
Coordination between different platforms is vital in modern warfare, and the way the war in Ukraine is unfolding shows the effectiveness of such an approach.
Panel XI focused on the future of drone warfare and on combating unmanned systems. The panel was moderated by Mr Marcel Foca, Senior Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania. Guest speakers included Col Cornel Argint, EW & Cyber Expert, Military Intelligence Directorate, Ministry of National Defence, Romania, Mr Frédéric Marchal, Eastern Europe Area Representative, Cerbair, France, Mr Adrian Iacob, Executive Director, Lockheed Martin Global Inc., Romania.
Participants presented various solutions to counter the threat of various types of drones and to protect important critical infrastructure targets. At the same time, combat actions on the Ukrainian front show how important anti-drone means are, as they are developing in parallel with unmanned systems.
The final panel of the Unmanned Systems Forum Smart Approach, Fast Development Conference focused on ways to improve cooperation within the defence industry in the context of the war in Ukraine and the growing impact of unmanned systems. The moderator was Mr George Scutaru, CEO, New Strategy Center, Romania, and the guest speakers were Lieutenant General Teodor Incicaș, Head of General Directorate for Armaments, Ministry of Defence, Romania, and Mr Emanuel Popp, General Director, Autonomous Flight Technologies Representation, Romania.
The increased use of drones in Ukraine should also be taken into account by the Romanian defence industry, which will have to invest in research, development and production of unmanned systems, taking into account the growing demand for such capabilities from the Ministry of National Defence. At the same time, the acquisition of unmanned systems by the MApN can facilitate the growth of industrial cooperation in the military field between Romanian companies and companies with extensive experience abroad.
The third edition of the Unmanned Systems Forum, organised by the New Strategy Center at the “Carol I” National University of Defence, discussed the many aspects of the use of unmanned systems in the context of the war in Ukraine. A year after the outbreak of the Russian invasion, one of the lessons learned is that unmanned systems are being used massively by both belligerents on a large scale, and to a large extent this conflict is a drone war.
One of the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine is the widespread use of drones – from small commercial drones to military drones. Today, on the frontline in Ukraine, both belligerents are using drones at all levels to direct their artillery fire, to coordinate their defences or infantry attacks, to execute strikes on command and control points or infrastructure targets. We are not talking about dozens of drones, but thousands of drones on both sides of the front.
The significant number of drones used and destroyed on both sides is impressive. We must bear in mind that, in future, the defence industry will have to focus very much on the production of drones and drone combat systems, and this is one of the lessons learned, which Romania must take into account.
Another important conclusion for Romania, but also for the countries bordering the Black Sea, is the use of naval drones. Ukraine has successfully acted against Russian ships with naval drones, as evidenced by a public announcement by President Zelensky that Ukraine is building a fleet of at least 100 naval drones. Ten days ago, Russia used a naval drone for the first time and hit the Zatoka bridge on the Dniester estuary – very important for the rail link between Odessa and Romania. Russia has demonstrated that it has such capabilities, which can hit other targets such as ships, or energy infrastructure in the exclusive economic zone of some states.
We need to be careful, because such strikes cannot always be attributed to anyone, and unless they are publicly acknowledged by the attacking state, it is difficult to establish their traceability. As such, we will need to invest more to protect our critical infrastructure, to protect our ships from these naval drones, not just to protect ourselves from unmanned aerial systems. We also need to consider the development of unmanned underwater systems, which can also be a powerful weapon.
The Unmanned Systems Forum took place on the one year anniversary of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, with all participants stressing the need for continued support for Ukraine so that Russia’s invasion can be stopped and Ukraine can regain its occupied territories.