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.
Panel VI. Romania’s Research and Development Sector and Industrial Potential for Unmanned Systems Sector
The second day of the “Unmanned Systems Forum” began with a panel dedicated to industrial cooperation and research investments. This panel was moderated by Mr. George Scutaru, CEO of New Strategy Center and has the following speakers: Major General Teodor Incicaș, Chief of the General Directorate for Armaments, Ministry of Defence (Romania), Mr. Adrian Iacob Executive Director, Lockheed Martin Global Inc. Bucharest, Romania, Mrs. Elena-Carmen Baston, Executive General Director of A-E Electronics, one of the Elbit Systems companies, and Mr. David H. Carstens, Colonel (Ret.) in the US Army, Chief, Military Liaison Office, U.S. Embassy Bucharest.
This panel discussed industrial cooperation determined by the development of unmanned systems, as a consequence of Romania’s intention to invest not only in research but also in the acquisition of high-performance systems. The Romanian MOD expands its research budget and is open to collaboration with the private sector, universities, and research institutions, opting both for the development of its own capabilities to be produced in Romania, but also for the purchase of products with a tradition in operation. Investments in ISTAR systems are particularly necessary given the present state of security in the Black Sea area, which requires a continuous flow of information.
The experts also stressed the industry’s importance and advantages for Romania, which could be the perfect host for a Center of Excellence for unmanned systems. The geographical location, the diversity of the natural environment, the proximity to the Black Sea, and the benefit of a less congested air space than in Western Europe are all reasons to establish such a center in Romania. It is an initiative that could have a beneficial impact on profile research and industrial cooperation by testing such systems. Romania will also benefit from an expanded Allied presence through unmanned systems and a stronger ability to monitor important areas around the country via unmanned system testing.
Panel VII. The New Environment of Counter-Drone Technology
The seventh panel of the event was moderated by Mr. Greg Melcher, Chief Operations Officer, Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare, USA, who was joined by Wing Commander Phil Skorge, Capability Development Manager, British Army, UK, Mrs. Marina Aibinder, Sales Director CIS and East Europe, D-Fend Solutions, Israel, Mr. Conrad Dreby, Co-founder and Director of Red Six Solutions, USA.
Drone countermeasures have been developed in response to the amazing growth of unmanned aerial systems. This panel benefitted from the knowledge of experienced speakers from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel, countries which are exploring distinct drone-fighting technologies.
The panel was devoted to the presentation of such technologies, as interest in combating unmanned systems grows in Romania, particularly among entities with responsibility in the fields of military, security, and public order. Simultaneously, anti-drone technologies are essential for the protection of industrial objectives and critical infrastructure.
Panel VIII. Autonomous Vehicles and Maritime Domain Defense Strategies for the Black Sea
The eighth panel, chaired by Mr. Seth Cropsey, President of Yorktown Institute (USA) and member of the International Consultative Board of New Strategy Center, was joined by Rear Admiral Mihai Panait, Chief of the Naval Forces, Romania, Rear Admiral Kiril Mihaylov, Chief of the Naval Forces, Bulgaria, Rear Admiral (LH) Iuri Covaleov, Deputy Chief Military Intelligence for ISR, Ministry of Defence, Romania, Mr. Joaquin D. Glomski, International Strategic Development, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., USA and Mr. Arda Mevlütoğlu, Defense analyst, Siyah Gri Beyaz, Turkey.
To tackle current security issues while keeping up with other nations’ development efforts in the region, a smart approach and rapid development of unmanned maritime vehicles (MUVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may be the best option. As the security situation in the Black Sea region has intensified, the Russian Federation has made significant investments in unmanned technologies, prompting other countries to follow suit. The Maritime Unmanned System Initiative (MUSI), which seeks to boost the efficiency and interoperability of unmanned systems while lowering the cost and delivery time of capabilities, is an example of NATO-wide international collaboration in unmanned vehicle technology. Furthermore, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) can detect and avoid naval mines and play an essential part in maritime operations.
The various security threats in the Black Sea need increased coordination among the riparian NATO nations, with both the leaders of the Romanian and Bulgarian naval forces emphasizing the dynamics and scope of bilateral cooperation.
The panel also evaluated the technical advancements made by American and Turkish companies in the development of such unmanned vehicles, which increased their tactical and operational effectiveness.
Panel IX. Artificial Intelligence and Unmanned Systems: a Preview of the Future Combat
The ninth panel of the event was moderated by Mr. Marcel Foca, Senior Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania. The speakers of the panel were Dr. Océane Zubeldia, Institute for Strategic Research – IRSEM, France, Mr. Trevor Woolven, Technical Lead for Future ISR Capability, Defense Mission Systems/ISR, Thales, UK and Mr. Eyal Mayer, Director of Marketing and Business Development, UAS Division, IAI System Ltd., Israel.
Given the rise of new military powers, both regionally and globally, future military operations will take place in a highly complex strategic environment. The robotization of equipment will lead to the military integration of automated systems, such as tactical drone system (SDT) drones and also autonomous vehicles. The drones will complement the capabilities of the new generation of warfare designed to facilitate the stabilization of the tactical situation. Better integration of artificial intelligence is needed in the military, and human cognitive saturation will need to be reduced.
The human factor will always play a key role in controlling unmanned systems. For example, in the case of unmanned aircrafts, the routes they will fly will be decided by the people. Thus, the transition to an autonomous defense system is possible through the use of technologies that include artificial intelligence. People will have to accept this element and trust that artificial intelligence systems operate efficiently and securely.
Panel X. European Policy on Autonomous Systems Domain. EURODRONE Project
The last panel of the Unmanned Systems Forum was moderated by Mr. Timo Koster, former ambassador-at-large for security policy and cyber, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands. The discussion also benefited from the expertise of ambassador Mihnea Motoc, Deputy Head, European Political Strategy Center (EPSC), European Commission; former Minister of National Defence, Romania, Mr. Jonas CEDERLOF, Directorate-General for Defence Industry and Space, European Commission, and Mrs. Roser ROCA-TOHA, Head of UAS Marketing, Airbus Defence and Space, France.
The discussion focused on the security and defense policy of the European Union (EU), specifically on its approach of the autonomous systems field. The competition of the great powers, combined with the high level of connectivity, have created a much more tense environment in which the boundaries between war and peace become blurred. In order to adapt to this new security context and lay the foundations for a strategic culture, the Union has adopted a number of different initiatives, such as the development of the Strategic Compass and the establishment of the European Defense Fund.
Since 2014, for the EU, drones have been recognized as a key technology, having dual use, being useful for both civilian and military sectors. The EURODRONE project is a timely initiative to ensure the development of autonomous systems at European level. This project is an advantage both for the European defense industry, which intends to encourage industrial cooperation at Union level, and for job creation in the field. The technologies developed under this initiative are to be efficient, multifunctional, developed at a low cost.
Mr. George Scutaru, CEO of New Strategy Center, formulated the event’s conclusions, emphasizing the importance of such a dialogue platform, particularly given the tense security situation in the Black Sea region and the technological developments that are currently taking place.