The Implementation of Robotic and Autonomous Systems: The Future is Now, prepare for 2045

February 9th 2021 - 15:30

Over the last two years, HCSS has conducted research on Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) in a military context concerning several aspects and dilemmas. Throughout this paper on the implementation of RAS, we hope to inspire thinking and stimulate the reader to reflect on the future use of RAS, draw recommendations towards the year 2035 that fit within the ‘Operationeel Kader voor het Landoptreden’ (and align these recommendations with the foreseen ‘Defensievisie 2035’) and consider recommendations for the implementation of RAS towards the year 2045.

The rationale behind looking far into the future is twofold. First, significant questions must be addressed early in the development and implementation of RAS. Many technologies are still in their infancy and similarly, our understanding of the political, strategic, tactical and, operational application of RAS is in its early stages. The second reason stems from the idea that people tend to overestimate the maturation of technologies in the short term and underestimate the speed of technological developments in the long term. Thus, by using both shorter- and long-term time horizons, room is created to think out-of-the-box whilst simultaneously lending opportunity to plan against a plausible, but—not yet ready—future.  

This paper assesses some relevant elements for the implementation of RAS into the armed forces and especially the Army. It raises questions regarding the formulation of concepts and doctrines, how command & control over RAS is organized, and the consequences of these changes for personnel (including their training), logistics, infrastructure, organizational processes, and leadership. Against this background, this paper develops recommendations regarding which lines of development or policies must be developed, the timeframe by which this should occur, and the prerequisites for these policies.

Patrick Bolder is an officer in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Since January 2019 he is seconded to The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. His expertise lies in all Defence matters, with a focus on Military Space, Unmanned systems, European Defence issues and Nuclear Policy.
Michel Rademaker is the deputy Director of HCSS. He has fifteen years of hands-on experience as an officer in The Royal Netherlands Army, where he held various military operational and staff posts and also served a term in former Yugoslavia. He has a masters degree obtained at the University of Tilburg. After leaving the armed forces, Mr. Rademaker went on to work at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) as a project and program manager and senior policy advisor on security topics for ten years. Eg. as NATO RTO project leader, he and his team developed serious gaming assessment methods and conducted several assessments of security technologies, and worked on numerous strategic security topics.
Bianca Torossian is a Research Fellow at HCSS. She contributes to a range of projects commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Defence and NATO. She primarily focusses on the intersection between emerging technologies and conflict, with multiple publications to her name on hybrid and cyber conflict, and is also heavily involved in the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) partnership.