Allied Command Transformation is NATO’s Warfare Development Command and a leading agent of Alliance innovation.
The Command applies innovation to capability development and warfare development efforts in order to deliver better and faster operational capabilities and results. Command personnel understand and harness technological innovation; and serve as the leading innovation agents for the Alliance. The results of ACT’s culture of innovation are found within the innovation practices of NATO and NATO nations as well as operational capabilities that are delivered on or ahead of time.
These are recent innovations driven by Allied Command Transformation:
Since its inception, NATO’s military power has relied on intellectual and technological superiority. The pace of change of our adversaries and our operating environments, not least in the technological area, challenges the Alliance’s ability to stay in front of its adversaries and to maintain maximum freedom of manoeuvre.
NATO will be able to maintain its edge through a new data-centric, modular and agile approach to capability development, in order to enable Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).
Enabling the Alliance to conduct MDO, digital transformation will ensure interoperability across all domains, enhancing situational awareness and facilitating political consultation and data-driven decision-making. It will provide a digital-ready workforce, agile digitally-enabled processes, and advanced technological solutions by 2030.
Innovation is a key driver for digital transformation, providing tools, techniques and the right mindset to constantly experiment and innovate. The ACT Innovation Branch has been leveraging Innovation since 2012 and is a key stakeholder to support NATO through this transformational process.
How do we leverage emerging technologies to our advantage while still keeping us safe?
Blockchain helps unlock the value in Additive Manufacturing but without AM there is no value. Our Command in North America has been testing military-grade blockchain applications to make military logistics, procurement, and finance more efficient. Check it out!
Warfare developments will increasingly involve artificial intelligence systems. NATO is actively working to make sure Artificial Intelligence advances are appropriately used for future military decision-making.
The Fall 2023 Innovation Challenge iteration focuses on solutions related to military mobility. The specific topic is: ‘Planning, Preparation, and Real-time Monitoring of Military Movements and Transport within the Trans-European Transport Network.‘
The best entries in this edition of the NATO Innovation Challenge have the potential to inform and support the development of future NATO military doctrine, standards, and requirements, as well as the creation of new capabilities.
The NATO Innovation Challenge was initiated in 2017 as a brainstorming process aimed at efficiently and cost-effectively addressing common operational problems for both the Alliance and its member nations. Co-organized by the NATO Innovation Hub (Allied Command Transformation) and NATO member nations, the Challenge provides priority access to non-traditional innovators including academia, individuals, and startups, while also expanding NATO’s network and collaboration with industry and academia.
The Innovation Challenge is open to all NATO member nations. It not only provides visibility to participants and their solutions, but also offers winners the opportunity to further develop their products. The Challenge serves as a cornerstone for creating a NATO-Wide Innovation Network, with the goal of fostering a shared culture of innovation among NATO member nations and inspiring transformation.
More information on the challenge is available here.
Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Hub delivered a critical new intelligence capability to NATO warfighters, quickly and ahead of schedule, confirming a proof of concept for its new Agile project development process. The Tasking, Exploitation, Assessment System (TEXAS), is a planning tool that assigns and manages allied intelligence gathering. Commanders can now task assets and get information quickly to make critical decisions on the battlefield.
In October 2019, Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Branch visited NATO’s Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, to find solutions for its operational pain points. Together, they identified a good candidate for a software-intensive project: the gap separating the Intelligence Requirement and Collection Management processes. At the time, no single system or application tracked analytical requirements from inception to delivery. A clumsy manual system was the only way to confirm whether the right information was delivered to the correct user. This gap made it difficult to determine whether an intelligence requirement had been met. TEXAS replaces a make-shift solution that used commercial spreadsheet software to organize intelligence requests.
TEXAS is a proof of concept for the Agile process, which is designed to innovate, develop, and deliver software solutions quickly. The Agile process slashes production timelines for new software and upgrades. This requires a different way of thinking about and collaborating on projects, including working off-site with the private sector, non-profits, and academic experts outside NATO. What once took 10 years or more, Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Hub delivered TEXAS in just eight months – two months ahead of schedule.
“We bring academia, best practices from industry, students, experts in different areas that can come together in one location and really come up with the best solutions possible that we can provide the alliance,” said Lieutenant Junior Grade Tami Hrivnak, who works in the Innovation Branch. “It’s not just about how we build software, but it’s changing the culture, changing the processes, making people look at things differently in order to support the alliance in a much faster, agile way.”
Allied Command Transformation set up the Innovation Hub at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, which opened itself to anyone willing to work on practical solutions for NATO’s challenges.
Today’s security environment is increasingly ambiguous and complex. Recent decades have seen an unprecedented acceleration of technological development especially in the digital domain. Widely available new technologies offer state and non-state adversaries new opportunities to disrupt NATO operations. This has created an environment of strategic urgency for NATO to embrace agile innovation. As the warfighting development command for NATO, Allied Command Transformation recently launched an Innovation Branch to focus work in this area. The Innovation Branch employs methodologies to actively seek out solutions for operational user problems and leverage technology to make the NATO warfighters’ mission easier, safer and more effective. One of the lead initiatives is a project called JIGSAW.
Allied Command Transformation innovators travelled to NATO Allied Air Command in October 2019 and gathered user problems in a Dragon’s Den format. One of the challenges presented by Allied Air Command was Tanker planning. The methodologies employed to service airborne refuelling requirements during operations were personnel intensive and required hours of planning. The Allied Command Transformation Innovation team investigated and determined that there was an existing software tool specifically created to handle this task. It is called JIGSAW and was designed by the United States Department of Defence to complete this task in the Air Operations Centres environment.
Only two weeks after the initial discussion with Allied Air Command, Allied Command Transformation Innovators demonstrated JIGSAW during NATO Exercise TRIDENT JUPITER 19-1 in Fall 2019. The capability proved to be a tremendous improvement over existing methodologies and was subsequently tested by NATO personnel during the NATO Specialized Heavy Air Refuelling Course in February 2020.
During the Specialized Heavy Air Refuelling Course a team of four students took three hours (a total of 12 person hours), to plan a series of 108 air refuelling requests, in a notional 24 hour mission day, as part of their course culmination activity. In contrast, using JIGSAW, a single test subject planned the same series of missions in only 1.5 hours with no knowledge of air to air refuelling planning and only 30 minutes of JIGSAW familiarization training. In addition, JIGSAW planned the refuelling requests with only 25 tanker sorties vice the 28 used by the students. This test proved the efficiency of JIGSAW in reducing planning time and resources, as well as increasing operational flexibility during the mission execution phase. JIGSAW provides NATO the opportunity to continue streamlining its processes resulting in a more agile and effective force.
Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Clow is the Allied Command Transformation Innovation lead for the JIGSAW project. “To keep our nations safe in such an unpredictable environment, we need to keep our Alliance strong. Innovation and experimentation are critical components of NATO’s future defence, security, and deterrence,” said Clow. “A culture of experimentation at Allied Command Transformation allows us to consistently revamp and develop our capabilities and embrace new concepts to make our Alliance more successful.”
As a result of this success, NATO is engaged in a Foreign Military Sales process with the United States Department of Defence to secure the use of JIGSAW for NATO Air Operations Centres by the end of this year. While this process is proceeding, Allied Command Transformation Innovation is actively engaged in several other agile methodology software projects to increase NATOs warfighting capability and interoperability.
Allied Command Transformation recently launched its first podcast, ‘Putting the Pieces Together: JIGSAW’. The introduction reads:
Effective coalition air warfare requires robust material support. This is especially true for fighter aircraft from nearly two dozen nations flying sorties against distant targets. Organizing and tasking air-to-air refueling aircraft are pieces to a puzzle that is critical to mission success. NATO’s Allied Command Transformation developed a user-friendly tool, JIGSAW, to manage these missions across several nations and vast territories. At Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany, JIGSAW is replacing the old, labor-intensive, paper-and-pencil planning process. The NATO Innovation Podcast talks to Lieutenant Colonel Jon Clow of the Royal Canadian Air Force, about JIGSAW’s development and deployment.
The Podcast is available on the channels and links below:
Artificial Intelligence Front End Learning Information Execution (AI FELIX)
Background: In the data age of the 21st century, those organizations who can receive, triage, disseminate information, and generate and track work arising from receipt of that information will be in a position to optimize their workforce and fully leverage emergent disruptive technologies. Given the potential capabilities of machine learning tools, the increase in information that is transacted across the NATO enterprise and the decreasing staff available to accomplish tedious but critical management functions, Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation developed an experimental AI algorithm that solves this communication, knowledge sharing, workflow and collaboration problem. By leveraging open source non-proprietary code, the Tasking and Knowledge Management, Analysis of Alternatives and Operational Experimentation Branches partnered with the NATO Communication and Information Agency to develop a game changing technological surrogate that automates previously monotonous, manual and resource intensive processes.
Mission: The Artificial Intelligence Front End Learning Information Execution (AI FELIX) is an experiment that leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics technologies to significantly reduce staff effort assigned to process daily incoming correspondence received at Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation and related tasking, monitoring, collaboration and performance metrics.
Goal: The goal of AI FELIX is to automate the extraction of metadata and the distribution and tracking of this information across the organisation. AI offers significant time-savings as it can process in seconds what takes humans hours, as well as considerably increasing the accuracy of information life-cycling within an organization. Moreover, AI FELIX is a modular and agile application that can be easily adapted to other NATO organisations as demonstrated by the successful export of the tool to Headquarters Allied Command Operations, to support their mission during Covid related working practices.
Capability: The AI FELIX project demonstrated the feasibility of applying Artificial Intelligence in the NATO SECRET Wide Area Network. By developing an operational Graphical User Interface, users are able to link AI FELIX with NATO’s information and knowledge management tools, such as the Enterprise Document Management System, Tasker Tracker Plus, and the NATO Information Portal. The Graphical User Interface enables dynamic learning, a process that allows the Artificial Intelligence to improve its predictions, by using feedback and responses from users. By creating Web Apps, AI FELIX can be distributed to the rest of the Alliance.
Deliverables: AI FELIX was developed in a multi-phased spiral approach delivering the following major functionalities.
- Command Review Board/Tasking Module: AI FELIX reads incoming correspondence, including hundreds of incoming correspondence that arrive at the headquarters every day. It then recommends how that correspondence should be distributed internally, uploads the document to the appropriate Enterprise Document Management System folders, and predicts if there is a task to be completed by the Command as a result of the correspondence. If there is action to be completed, taskers are generated by the machine within the appropriate tasking tool;
- Portfolio Management Module: AI FELIX performs real time holistic analysis either on the entire “portfolio” of the 1500 taskers raised annually within Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation or can provide discrete examination of individual taskers at the Directorate or Branch level. The machine assists the planning, execution and delivery of the output more proactively; monitors if it is on schedule and sends out reminders/hasteners when staff fall behind; effectively informing risk and most efficient outlay of resources against deliverables;
- Knowledge Wingman Module: The individual staff officer virtual assistant; AI FELIX constantly scans the NATO enterprise for similar work, potential points of contact and generates a community of interest. The aim of this networking element is to facilitate collaborative stakeholder engagement at the earliest opportunity to support delivery of outputs. It also predicts the training and education resources to facilitate individual staff in the delivery of their primary and associated roles, and subsequently their overall output within the Command. This module also has an automated sorting function that organizes information on the users’ behalf; enabling the push of analysed data to the individual staff officer level, increasing awareness of a given set of topics and providing the user with the ability to rapidly identify data of use in order to deliver a given output. This module also provides the opportunity to upload singular or multiple products to Enterprise Document Management System seamlessly, automating the capture of critical metadata and reducing the burden of users having to complete this for each document. This will enable products to be more readily searchable within the Data Repository, resulting in information being available for exploitation within the two NATO Strategic Commands and wider Alliance.
Headquarters: NATO Allied Command Transformation, Tasking and Knowledge Management Branch, Analysis of Alternatives Branch, and Operational Experimentation Branch.
Point of Contact – ACT Public Affairs Office, [email protected].
As part of the Military Use of Autonomy, Automation and Robotics (MUAAR), the Autonomous Last Mile Resupply experiment demonstrated the autonomous requirements for triggering, launch, and delivery of specific munitions to specific personnel in a field-firing environment.
iHelp is an algorithm optimizing and visualizing the logistics of a crisis-, or disaster-, response operation. It has the ability to map all logistical needs and resources. Therefore it exploits data from all operational stakeholders and from open sources. Its goal is to identify the best plan to assign logistical resources across the operational theatre. The information that iHelp takes into account includes all existing resources, transportation capabilities and constraints, weather conditions, supply and demand from all stakeholders. First responders will be able to interact with iHelp in real-time, provide updates and request support through their common mobile devices.
Besides its NATO applications, iHelp will also be made usable by professionals from the private sector and other crisis response organizations.
This development project is conducted at the NATO Innovation Lab, by Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Hub.
In a 2018 Innovation Challenge, DATAIKU, a young start-up company, received the top award for their innovative software design. The software helped manage and prioritize data that gave clients a broad overview of an overall environment. Their solution allowed a data scientist to use the company’s Data Science Studio (DSS), a powerful predictive analytics solution, to provide a military intelligence cell with in-depth analysis of operational areas and trends of data flow. DATAIKU utilized an automated satellite and aerial imagery surveillance to obtain the program’s necessary information.