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The British Army and the Technological Revolution: New Approaches in Military-Industrial Cooperation

3 December 2020

The Army Industrial Engagement Framework (AIEF) was launched by the British Army in 2019 with the aim to develop a more effective relationship with industries throughout the procurement and development process.

Since the world is rapidly changing, the military field -particularly land forces-, needs to adapt to ensure operational and strategic advantages to address threats. For instance, working closely with partners and industries, is necessary to succeed and profitable for all. The Army will be able to establish its future capability requirements, while industries will focus on the Army’s needs in its research and development programs, thus enhancing modernisation efforts.

The AIEF sets out a multi-tier cooperation scheme that mainly revolves around Land capability acquisition as an essential component. These scheme would focus on: (i) first the creation of an international force with closer cooperation with international partners, mainly based on interoperability; (ii) second, building new relations with industries including Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and non-traditional defence suppliers; (iii) third, boosting the UK’s prosperity through the Army’s contribution to innovation, exports and local supply; (iv) fourth, ensuring that human beings remain at the centre of decision-making processes.

In addition to these several future improvements in cooperation schemes, the legislation enshrined in the AIEF seeks to achieve six main goals:

I. Promoting prosperity. This means incorporating economic goals into decisions, increasing the agility of acquisitions and the relationship between the industrial sector and other economic actors;

II. Enhancing the UK’s industrial strategy, given the crucial role of defence in the UK’s economy;

III. Creating a defence industrial policy which identifies British Industries working with the UK Armed Forces as national security objectives;

IV. Creating a defence technology framework to identify emerging technologies to prompt investments, experimentation and innovation;

V. Implementing the Whole Force by Design, creating an effective collaboration with military personnel, reserve etc. and promoting a cultural change in defence;

VI. Most importantly, taking advantage through innovation, meaning channelling innovation to contribute to defence goals. Concerning this specific approach, the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, stated:

The Army needs to become a ‘smarter customer’ to keep pace with these rapidly developing technologies, and this will involve new partnerships that transcend private-public boundaries”.

To understand this last concept, here are some examples of the new British Army approach regarding future multi-domain operations:

  • The British Army, as previously done by the Navy, understands that Testing and Evaluation (T&E) is a fundamental mechanism to help the Army in rapid innovation. For instance, according to General Ivan Jones., Prototype Warfare would be an example of the right approach to secure competitive advantage.
  • Another important goal of the British Army is to educate the public about the role of technologies on the battlefield and their implementation in UK land forces. Students and cadets were invited to see how units integrated new technologies, to understand how STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is increasingly involved in Army modernisation. 
  • Innovation is key to modernisation. As a result of the increase in funding and contracts with industries developing user-tailored technologies, the Royal Navy conducted an exercise drill in 2018 called “Autonomous Warrior” involving an unmanned and autonomous system. The deployment of such systems is a clear example of innovation and cultural transformation based on industrial partnerships.

As General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith stated:

“The tech revolution is driving a revolution in how war on land is waged”.

This revolution starts from a new approach based on technology, future forces, new training and close cooperation with defence industries.

To sum up, the British Army is modernising and transforming to meet the challenges of these ever-changing times, as the AIEF particularly focuses on land forces. For the British Army success can be achieved with the support of its allies, partners and industries building a new relation within a legal framework that enables the Army to develop new technologies to be implemented on the battlefield. All this while making sure that these new systems are deployed within the legitimate framework of action and always respecting the rule of law.

Written by Christian DI MENNA, Legal Researcher at Finabel – European Army Interoperability Centre


UK Government,  Army Industrial Engagement Framework: Advantage through Industry (Army Industrial Engagement Framework report, 2019).

Croft Hannah,  ‘Smarter Customer’: The British Army & the Tech Revolution (, 15/11/2019).