Interoperability key to NATO’s future

3 May 2024

Underpinning the majority of conversations at the EU Defence and Security Summit in Brussels last month was the call for increased interoperability and standardisation across NATO’s combined war-fighting estate.

This call isn’t necessarily new, but the volume has increased in the light of lessons learned on the frontlines in Ukraine, and stark economic inefficiencies in defence spending across the member states coming home to roost.

What we have all seen from the conflict in Ukraine is the need for comparatively unsophisticated force mass and rapidly deployable capability. In a future conflict directly involving longer-established NATO members in the fighting, the fact that the EU’s cumulative defence budget is half that of the US – but spent across three times as many platforms – clearly outlines how far we are away from what our most pressing conflict is telling us we need.

And while those at senior level in Europe’s defence forces may call for more standardisation, the political momentum is towards more sovereign self-interest, with many members still wanting their own development programmes. How, then, do you improve defence spending efficiency, rationalise platforms and deliver rapidly deployable, flexible capability to the frontline – while still maintaining room for sovereign interests (and not undermining NATO unity)?

Where the sentiments expressed at the summit suggested a conundrum, AERALIS CEO, Tristan Crawford, who attended the event, recognised it immediately – because it’s the very problem AERALIS has been working to solve.

A Europe-wide ‘air force on-demand’ service, delivering the AERALIS modular aircraft system through a hub-and-spoke network of industrial partners; enabling a low-cost, rapidly deployed and flexible response to a wide variety of needs across the training pipeline and evolving battlespace. A single core programme, that through its digital design and open systems avionics allows each ‘customer’ nation to develop, modify or tailor their own complement of modules to deliver the nuanced capabilities they desire. All of the above inherently interoperable, and with 85% common parts, enabling an incredibly elegant cost-effective supply chain.

While Russia spends 30% of GDP on defence, Europe’s 2% needs to be spent better and more cleverly to aggregate our combined resources. ‘Cleverly’ might mean having the vision to make long term political commitments now, to avoid paying a far greater forfeit should Russia prevail in Eastern Europe.