On invitation of the Austrian Ministry of Defence, the NATO Modelling and Simulation Group (NMSG) held its 2019 Conference in Vienna, Austria. From 24 to 25 October 2019, more than a hundred delegates from 24 nations got together in the historic settings of the Sala Terrena in the Academy Wing of the Stift Barracks. Where the surroundings were baroque, the themes were not. “Towards the Next Generation Synthetic Battlespace”, was the topic of the conference.
The symposium was preceded by the 2019 NMSG Autumn Business Meeting, in which the NMSG elected Robert Siegfried (DEU) as future chairman and Julie Tremblay-Lutter (CAN) as deputy chairwoman. Both will take office at the end of the NMSG 2020 Spring Business Meeting. As part of the business meeting, the Austrian hosts had also organized a visit to the Maria Theresean Military Academy and Diamond Aircraft Industries
The Symposium was opened by keynote speaker Major General Bruno Hofbauer from the Austrian Armed Forces, who spoke about the “Future Challenges for the Austrian Armed Forces”.
“The future military will fight in an urban environment against enemies that will fight in unprecedented way,” he said. According to the general, future warfare will be characterized above all by uncertainty, where not even the opponents will always be clearly recognizable.
Dr. Ralph Hammer from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology had been invited to talk about “Security Challenges in Non-Military Areas in Relation to Modelling and Simulation”. In one of the probably best lectures of the event he presented the Austrian Security Research Programme KIRAS consisting of 254 projects whose results should contribute to the safety of all members of society. It includes a Subterranean Special Forces Research & Training Centre (SSF-RTC) deep within the Austrian Alps. Even more exciting are unconventional new simulation proposals, such as the “Kobayashi Maru Test”, which explores unavoidable failure scenarios; or the “All Too Thin Layer of Civilisation” – experimental field, which examines the impact of a destructive emergency situation on daily life.
A highlight of the first day was the panel session moderated by Dr. Robert Siegfried, Vice-Chairman NMSG (Aditerna GmbH, DEU). Five proven experts identified what in their opinion would be the actual drivers for the next generation battlefield and what the NMSG could contribute in this context.
For Agatino Mursia (Leonardo Company, ITA), Chairman of the NMSG, proper handling of AI and Big Data and the access to Quantum Computing will make the difference, and the NMSG will provide the platform to convert promising technologies into real capabilities.
Dr. Andreas Tolk (The MITRE Company, USA) sees Operational Agility and Autonomous Systems as the future drivers of warfare. Inter-panel cooperation is his suggestion for the NMSG. For Lesly Jacobs (TNO, NLD), the Multi Domain Battle Space is the big challenge, and Integrated Analysis is the key to a sustainable solution. Dr. J. Mark Pullen (George Mason University, USA) mentions the effects of cybercrime, the broad spectrum of threats and possible countermeasures as drivers for future theatres of war, but also geopolitics and in particular the chaos that climate change will cause. NMSG’s role would be to identify and promote scalable innovations, such as multidomain C2 with supporting simulation. Dr. Keith Ford (Thales, UK) estimates that in the future the military will need more tools and training to operate below the level of an armed conflict, i.e. non-lethal weapons will gain in importance.
The 18 presentations over the two day conference, jointly chaired by Colonel Wolfgang Kralicek, Austrian Federal Ministry of Defence and Mr. Wim Huiskamp, TNO (NED), were grouped into seven thematic areas: Human Actors; System and Sensors; Support of Operation; Synthetic Environment; Technology and Applications; Architecture; M&S Applications. Furthermore, on the second day, Dr. Samuel S. Monfort and Dr. John J. Graybeal (both KINEX Inc., USA) presented their excellent NMSG Young Scientist Award lecture on “Reliability Requirements for Augmented Reality in Visual Search Tasks”.
Overall, the event was well received by the participants. For the overwhelming majority of the delegates, the presentations corresponded fully or in part to their objectives for the symposium. This was the result of a survey carried out at the end of the event. 84 percent of the participants found that the lectures were relevant. At least 40 percent of the audience also said that the general level of the talks was too deep. However, such a conflict can hardly be avoided at an event that seeks to attract both passionate experts as well as more generally interested professionals.
Thanks are also due to the representatives of the host nation, Austria, for their hospitality and support, above all Colonel Wolfgang Kralicek, who, after a long effort, succeeded in bringing the event to neutral Austria for the first time. Perfectly organized and embedded in the cultural and historical background of Austria, this symposium was something very special, not only for the guests from overseas. An excellent advertisement for that small country in the heart of Europe!
The 2020 NMSG Symposium will take place in the United Kingdom, on the 22-23 October 2020.
20 years in the service of the Modelling and Simulation Community
In 2019, the NATO Modelling and Simulation Group celebrated its 20th anniversary. This happened without much ado; a small medal included in the conference documents of the 2019 Annual Symposium was the only reference.
In 1999, the NATO Modelling and Simulation Group had been established as an entirely new group, with the objective to maximize the effective use of M&S among NATO, Member Nations and Partnership for Peace Nations. Much has been achieved since in terms of interoperability, integration of former WP nations and cooperation with partner countries. Our thanks for this.
The symposium in Vienna has shown that new tasks are waiting for the NMSG. AI and Big Data and the access to Quantum Computing are coming under focus. Technical problems, however, will probably be the easiest to solve. Geopolitical changes such as climate change and migration could develop into completely new drivers on the world theatre. May the NMSG maintain its sense for setting the right priorities and have the courage to address the true problems. – Walter F. Ullrich