Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

We need new technological means to fight the wars of the future

Edge brings together 24 defence entities and 12,000 of the sharpest minds in the world to rethink the way we approach hybrid warfare

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, centre, with Faisal Al Bannai, right, at the launch today of Edge. Hamad Al Mansoori for the Ministry of Presidential Affairs
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, centre, with Faisal Al Bannai, right, at the launch today of Edge. Hamad Al Mansoori for the Ministry of Presidential Affairs

Technology is changing the rules of modern warfare to the extent that boots on the ground are not always necessary to fight and win. Battles can now be fought in the digital space and through everyday means.

Hybrid warfare has blurred traditional lines, so that we are increasingly seeing the mainstream commercial market disrupting the military sphere.

Drones using off-the-shelf commercial technology, costing less than $10,000 (Dh36,725) each, were recently used to attack Saudi Aramco oil production sites, causing the suspended production of 5.7 million barrels of oil a day. And in December last year, hundreds of flights were affected when drone sightings near Gatwick airport in London closed one of the world’s busiest runways for 33 hours, costing airlines about £50 million (Dh236,800m) in lost revenue and delaying an estimated 140,000 passengers.

The devastation and scale of the impact of technology can be dangerous. We have entered an era where we are now vulnerable to a new, intelligent and more complex kind of threat, which has made it easier, faster and cheaper to endanger our safety and personal freedom. While the military plays a crucial role in defending our nations, they still lag behind the pace of change required to secure our invisible borders. It is for this reason that we must evolve, converging high technology and commercial innovations that provide a cutting-edge advantage in the future of global security.

With the incredible pace of technological advancement set to continue, our organisation EDGE – which brings together 25 leading defence companies into one conglomerate with a focus on disruptive tech – is spearheading this very convergence, moving with speed and inventing with freedom to ultimately enable a more agile and secure future.

The devastation and scale of the impact of technology can be dangerous. We have entered an era where we are now vulnerable to a new, intelligent and complex threats

Launching today, EDGE is set to emerge as a catalyst for change, bringing about disruptive innovation across the defence industry and beyond. Solving real world challenges, our mission is simple: to bring advanced technology products and services to market faster and more efficiently.

Consolidating more than 25 entities and 12,000 brilliant minds, we work closely with those in the frontline, who understand the intricate and intuitive needs of the defence industry, as well as those who can innovate creatively through drawing on technologies waiting to be discovered.

Our work will involve combining the best of commercial hardware and national security software through engineering excellence, cross-domain expertise and integrated technologies that leverage emerging developments such as autonomous capabilities, cyber-physical systems and artificial intelligence. We will favour open architecture – that is, software information open to the public – over dead-end black boxes, or closed, coded information controlled by the creator; bring modern product development to market within months as opposed to years; and instigate agile decision-making processes, creating efficiencies that the defence industry has not known before.

We will also collaborate with global industry giants and start-up companies, building new relationships and developing deeper ones with existing partners across the public and private spectrum. The nexus of these two spheres are allowing us to ideate with newfound outcomes, rethinking the way we approach hybrid warfare.

Drones using off-the-shelf commercial technology, costing less than $10,000 dollars each, were recently used to attack Saudi Aramco oil production sites, causing the suspended production of 5.7 million barrels of oil a day. EPA
Drones using off-the-shelf commercial technology, costing less than $10,000 dollars each, were recently used to attack Saudi Aramco oil production sites, causing the suspended production of 5.7 million barrels of oil a day. EPA

We will further be working closely with leading universities, elite scientists and critical thinkers to remain at the forefront of cutting-edge products and research. Accelerating the progress of an advanced technology ecosystem, we will be focused on attracting exceptional talent from around the world. The UAE is setting up a critical social and economic infrastructure as part of its broader national diversification plans to create an environment that attracts the brightest intellects, scholars and academic institutions. We will support this vision, which will, in turn, attract the next generation of technologists and inventors to become a part of a more distinguished advanced technology environment.

The digital era offers us both promise and peril. It gives a country like ours an opportunity to compete harder at the global level, reimagine capabilities and capacities that can dramatically change the way we operate and even offer the prospect of leapfrogging existing capabilities – surpassing many countries around the world. The risks and threats are equally uncharted. If we are to advance the military industry and make it suitable to the 21st century, we must be able to take on challenges based on forward-thinking explorations and computations.

Wars fought in the digital space are often conducted by stealth and deniable. EDGE is investing extensively to keep research and development at its core, and to remain always agile and ahead of the curve. Achieving only the slightest edge over our competitors makes all the difference when it comes to survival.

Faisal Al Bannai is the CEO and managing director of EDGE

Updated: November 11, 2019 01:17 PM

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