Unmanned Systems Forum. Smart Approach, Fast Development – Day I

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Unmanned Systems Forum. Smart Approach, Fast Development – Day I

The second edition of the “Unmanned Systems Forum. Smart Approach, Fast Development” took place on February 22-23, and was hosted by New Strategy Center, with the Ministry of National Defense as an institutional partner. To address both traditional and developing security issues, a nation like Romania must develop and adapt, especially technologically. The discussions centered on this issue, providing a complete evaluation of the security difficulties in the Black Sea region, as well as the potential for the development and use of unmanned systems in this region, and the impact they have on the security environment.

The “Unmanned Systems Forum” is Romania’s most important event in this sector. Officials and civilian and military specialists from Romania, as well as other NATO and EU member nations, as well as representatives from academia and companies with substantial expertise in the domain, attended the conference. The event was arranged under Chatham House regulations and in a mixed format, with both online and in-person participation, while adhered to all pandemic-imposed measures, including testing with quick tests of all participants.

The second edition of the conference “Unmanned Systems Forum. Smart Approach, Fast Development” has kicked off with remarks from Mr. Vasile Dîncu, Minister of National Defense, and MG (ret.) Leonardo Dinu, member of the New Strategy Center’s Scientific Council.

One of the major challenges we face at the Allied level is the need to enhance collective resilience. Romania has enormous development potential as a regional security provider, notably in the field of unmanned systems. The use of these systems in the fields of security, information, and economics can be viewed as part of the answer to the challenges we are now confronted with. The acquisition and development of strong capabilities, particularly the procurement of unmanned systems and the use of artificial intelligence, is important to Romania’s military modernisation.

Panel I. Why the Black Sea Matters? An Assessment of the Security Impact on Neighboring Regions


The first panel of the forum enjoyed the presence of General (Ret.) Curtis M. Scaparrotti, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Daniel Petrescu, Chief of Defense Staff, Romania, General (Ret.) Sir James Everard, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe and  Mr. Emmanuel Dupuy, President of the Institute for Introspective and Security in Europe (IPSE), France. The panel was chaired by MG (Ret.) Leonardo DINU, member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center.

The discussion focused on the impact of the latest security developments in the Black Sea Region, characterized by the aggressive behavior of the Russian Federation and its flagrant violation of international law. Speakers discussed the paradigm shift in the security dynamics of the Black Sea region, caused by the consolidation and maneuvers of the Russian Federation on its border with Ukraine and the impact of this shift on NATO’s Strategic Concept, in the broader context of the Eastern Flank and even the Mediterranean. Romania’s position in this security equation cannot be overlooked as an important regional power. In addition, this tense security context requires increased levels of cohesion within NATO and strong measures that would determine the Alliance to protect its member states, while deterring hostile Russian action.

Panel II. Unmanned Systems and 2030 Deterrence & Defense Perspective in the Black Sea Region


The second panel of the event was moderated by Dr. Antonia Colibășanu, Analyst, Geopolitical Futures and Member of the New Strategy Center Scientific Council, who was joined by General (Ret.) Frank Gorenc, former Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Africa and Commander of NATO Allied Air Command, USA, LTG Viorel Pană, Chief of the Air Forces, Romania, MG (Ret.) Allen Batschelet, former Commander of Vth Corps, US Army Europe, USA, and MG Iulian Berdilă, Chief of the Land Forces, Romania.


Because of their efficiency, low cost, and support for human effort, unmanned systems will become indispensable in the future security environment. When it comes to unmanned aircraft systems, their usage has grown significantly in both the military and civilian domains. These systems are already a consistent presence in today’s military conflicts in the Black Sea area. The role of unmanned systems in deterrence and defense efforts is critical, as their usage both domestically and within the Alliance will increase effectiveness and provide access to key areas of military operations. In this regard, however, more industrial cooperation between the private and public sectors is required. Simultaneously, the emergence of unmanned systems must be seen in the perspective of technical advances in the area of artificial intelligence.

Panel III. Using Unmanned Tools for a Modern Border Control Missions


The third session, moderated by Mr. Marian Tutilescu, Senior Associate Expert of the New Strategy Center, had as guests Police Chief Commissioner Ionel Pavel, Head of Surveillance and Naval Control Service of the General Inspectorate of Border Police, Romania, Mr. Siim Lindmaa, Senior Staff Official of Readiness and Response Bureau, Police and Border Guard Board, Estonia, Police Lieutenant Nikolaos Koromilas, Chief of the Operations Office of the UAV Service, Hellenic Police, Greece, and Mrs. Erica Bennici, Unmanned MMS IPT Leader, Electronics Division, Leonardo, Italy. 

The panel discussed the advantages of unmanned systems for border surveillance from the perspectives of Romania, Estonia, and Greece, as well as the experience obtained by one of the companies in the field. Unmanned systems can be employed for both land and coastal operations in collaboration with other countries through regional border control services. Furthermore, such systems are utilized for maritime surveillance in order to deal with the high degree of illegal immigration and other difficulties caused by tensions at Europe’s borders. Simultaneously, the conversation considered the key technical characteristics of some capabilities, as well as their progress from an industrial standpoint.

Panel IV. Trends in Russia’s and China’s Development of Unmanned Systems

The fourth panel was moderated by LTG (Ret.) Cătălin Moraru, former Deputy Chief of the Armaments Department, Ministry of Defense, Romania. The speakers who joined him were Dr. Phillip Petersen, President, Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare, USA and Dr. Alessandro ARDUINO, Principal Research Fellow, Middle East Institute (MEI), National University of Singapore & associate at Lau China Institute, King’s College London, Italy.

The plans and trends for the development of the unmanned systems of the Russian Federation and China were the central topic of discussion. Russia wants to further develop its technological capabilities by integrating unmanned systems into conventional combat forces. As can be seen in conflict areas such as Ukraine and Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia is making extensive use of unmanned systems. While the United States is a leader in the development of unmanned systems, China is a market leader in producing such systems at much lower prices, benefiting from the limited level of restrictions. From this point of view, China’s biggest competitor in this field is Turkey, which has a growing industry dedicated to unmanned systems.

Panel V. Future Wars, Future Technologies and Unmanned Systems

The last panel of the day was moderated by Col. (AF) Marius Șerbeszki, rector of the „Henri Coandă” Air Force Academy, who was joined by Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Director of the European Union Satellite Centre and Honorary Chairman of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania, Mr. Adam Hodges, Capture Team Lead, Boeing, USA, and Mr. John Beck, Director Autonomy & Active Safety, Oshkosh Corporation, USA.

The discussion centered on evaluating the potential of unmanned systems and their impact on future wars and technologies, featuring presentations from representatives of well-known firms in the sector. Unmanned systems have sparked debate not just at the national level, but also among international organizations, particularly in the debates related to weapons control. Such systems may be utilized not only in the air, sea, and land domains, but also in space, with the recent proliferation of satellites as an example of the development of unmanned systems in this field.