The multilingual contents of the site are the result of an automatic translation.


Other sources

Saut de ligne
Saut de ligne

⚡️ Transparency on the battlefield in the light of new technologies

Science & technology
Saut de ligne
Saut de ligne

From mankind's very first battles on the shores of Lake Turkana 10,000 years ago, to our deployment in the Sahel stripSaharan strip, the fog of war, that is, the climate of uncertainty in which war is fought, has always been part of the commitment of force. Any man, futil more or less involved in the conduct of the war, futil more or less distant from the front line, has sought to dispel it. To this end, the means employed could range from a simple spy to a satellite equipped with all kinds of sensors. Today, the technological advances at our disposal allow us to maintain permanent surveillance means, to detect a human presence at an altitude of several thousand metres or the slightest electromagnetic emission.

It is even becoming difficult to do without it to such an extent that some operations can be postponed or even cancelled due to a lack of UAVs or intelligence.

Conversely, and by mirror effect, the search for surprise is becoming more and more complex in an ultra-digitized era where every troop movement is reported on social networks.1when it is not detected by conventional means.

Technology thus has a paradoxical effect: while it can increase the transparency of the battlefield, it can, on the other hand, make it opaque or mislead the adversary. In fact, it maintains the perpetual cycle of sword and shield.

In the conduct of warfare, the diptych "new technology" and "battlefield transparency" therefore raises many questions. They arise in the field of tactical principles as much as in the field of warfare. Thanks to technology, is it possible to see everything at all times, to create surprise? Should we abandon ourselves to the technological whole? On the other hand, can one evade the adversary, or even deceive him, even though he has the latest generation of sensors?

Consequently, it is reasonable to think that, dissipating or totally obscuring the fog of war, in spite of techno-logical progress, is a chimera that requires us to review our apprehension and the application of tactical principles.

Thus, we will see that while technology has undeniable attractions and opportunities for the leader, it cannot change the nature of war and its immutability.2 The nature of war is not the same as the nature of the leader. Therefore, this must lead, at the dawn of the Scorpio era, to question the developments in the field of warfare.This should lead, therefore, at the dawn of the Scorpio era, to questioning developments in planning and execution, to accepting that war will always contain a degree of uncertainty, and to renewing, or even opening up, tactical thinking.

Des promotess of ubiquity et of stealth

The development of new technologies has greatly improved our perception of the battlefield as much as it has increased our ability to lure and deceive. Thus, the marriage of high-tech equipment and warfare greatly opens up the range of military possibilities on the battlefield.

First of all, it is in the field of surveillance that advances have been most notable. Drones are the best illustration of this. Just over two decades ago, their use was in its infancy. The first Predator surveillance drone flew over Bosnia in 1995. At that time, France was only using the CL-289, a hyper-speed reconnaissance drone which, although it did not allow real-time images to be received, had the merit of offering alternatives to the conventional intelligence sources of the time. Today, UAVs can evolve for several dozen hours, while being piloted from any point on the planet while armed. They offer the leader the possibility of intercepting communications, observing in almost all weather conditions and very quickly seizing an opportunity, such as an opportunity for destruction. Moreover, it becomes almost impossible to do without them because of the tactical added value they can offer.

Then, in the field of information and communication systems (CIS) to which are added the cyber aspects, it is difficult for an enemy, however asymmetrical, to evade interception. The use of social networks or mobile phones, to name but a few, offers the possibility of accurately mapping the characteristics and networks of terrorist or criminal groups. Whether in Afghanistan, Mali or the Middle East, the impossibility of resorting to other forms of communication, combined with the development of means of interception, makes it possible to increase knowledge of the adversary, but also to be able to anticipate his movements.

Finally, by mirror effect, the ability to lure the opponent has also increased considerably. The Trojan Horse, or Operation Fortitude with its phantom army and its real fake radio broadcasts remain in everyone's mind. Today, some decoy technologies use inflatable and heated systems to fool thermal imaging cameras.3 current. Nothing new, of course, but they are innovations that have been adapted. In another area, the United States is developing flying drones to saturate opposing air radars by reproducing bomber formations.4. Why not imagine today systems that would use "bots" or systems to simulate the electromagnetic signature of Joint Battle Groups (JBGs) or command posts in order to deceive opposing detection capabilities? These technologies can therefore contribute to maintaining the fog of war for the purposes of deception or surprise.

The technology is therefore particularly promising. But there are some risks in using it.

Les risques du "all technological"

While it is possible to gain a better understanding of the battlefield today because of the capabilities offered by technology, it is quite illusory to think that, in the more or less long term, total transparency can be achieved.

Firstly, the use of high-tech equipment uses vectors which, in the logic of the sword and shield, have flaws. For example, a rebel hidden under a simple blanket manages to fool the most advanced thermal cameras. Telephone interceptions can be circumvented by the use of means or processes that until now may have seemed obsolete.5. Conversely, current PCs at division level and above can only re-articulate very slowly when they are not immovable. The means implemented to make them work are indeed particularly heavy ("energy" shelters) and very long to install (computer networks and means of communication). And what about their fragility in a context of symmetrical conflict, where their electromagnetic signature will make them instantly detectable. The conflict in Ukraine demonstrated that the use of even a telephone or a few radios attracted artillery fire in a matter of minutes.

On the other hand, the nature of the war, despite progress, has not changed. It remains and will remain the site of the confrontation of human wills with all their share of subjectivity, method and even irrationality. It will always be the place of expression of "friction", in the sense of Clausewitz. Moreover, the battlefield cannot be reduced to a chess or go game board. For the game of chess, the number of possible games amounts to 101206The number is much lower than the 10600 of the game of go... What would be the value of this figure on the battlefield, an undefined space like the game boards, whose pieces have multiple capacities? In addition to this, there is the human and psychological dimension of the fighters and their leader. The figure undoubtedly tends towards infinity and reveals that no computer could conceive and conduct a war in the place of a human.

Indeed, it seems chimerical to believe in full battlefield transparency in the near future, despite the capabilities offered by technology. Certainly the fog of war will only be lifted a little more. However, relying on technology in an indiscriminate manner presents risks. One can imagine a "tunnel" effect through which the battlefield would be more transparent, but through a low-field spyglass. Moreover, placing too much, or even blind, trust in what is displayed through a screen raises the risk of ignoring weak signals, or even the essentials, and paradoxically being caught off guard. This is, moreover, one of the lessons of Operation Bagration in June 1944, when the Wehrmacht was intoxicated by the Soviet maskirovska in western Ukraine. Finally, and paradoxically, the influx of intelligence risks creating a thrombosis by "excess data". This is the "digital hoplite" syndrome, described in the eponymous study.

Intégrer les technological revolutions to notre culture militaire

Therefore, the application of the principles of warfare in the age of battlefield digitization and the agility promised by info-enhancement must be questioned. In other words, and to quote Rémy Hémez, the new technologies "impose a reflection in order to integrate these new capabilities into our conceptualization of surprise"8 and, above all, of the apprehension of the battlefield.

Of course, technological innovation goes hand in hand with progress and unquestionable contributions in tactics. The information enhancement, for example, that the Scorpion programme will bring to the Army, will considerably broaden the scope of possibilities for our land forces: agility, speed of intelligence acquisition and sharing, protection and aggressiveness etc. All the technical innovations will necessarily have to be accompanied by a renewal of doctrinal and tactical thinking, as was the case at the end of the First World War, when the battle tank appeared. However, we should not forget the achievements of centuries of military history and believe that, in terms of battlefield transparency, everything will be clearer and more visible. This will not, however, reduce friction, the dialectic of wills and other epiphenomena related to combat.

Furthermore, although French military culture favours the three principles of warfare, namely concentration of effort, freedom of action and economy of forces, the contribution of technology certainly requires us to reconsider them. From now on, the principle of economy of forces could evolve. For example, the articulation of an IATF could change in the course of action, depending on whether we move from a centralized manoeuvre to smaller-scale manoeuvres at the IATF level, then back to a centralized level, and so on.

Therefore, beyond doctrine, it may be necessary to change or revise our intellectual concepts, our "doctrine", and our "doctrine". Therefore, beyond doctrine, it may be necessary to change or revise our intellectual concepts, our "mindset tactics", to encourage more than before the initiative of leaders, their aggressiveness while remaining within the framework of our rules of engagement. This is how we could maintain confusion in the adversary to destabilize him, with very agile and swift devices. Conversely, collaborative combat opens up new perspectives to protect against surprise. Offensive and defensive devices could be deconcentrated, or even dissociated, in order to offer only low profiles to the enemy's blows.


Technology will never give us ubiquity or stealth on the battlefield. And even if it does, the nature of warfare will not radically change: friction will not disappear from the battlefield, and neither will the human being, unless there is total autonomous robotization, which is undesirable. Offering indisputable capabilities, even certain forms of superiority, it requires mastery and discipline, otherwise we risk asphyxiation through excess data or the emancipation of our reflex and elementary acts, to cite only these two examples. In fact, current and future progress requires us to integrate it into our various processes9 and to rethink ourapplication ofthe principles of warfare, otherwise we risk reducing our future armament programmes to additional tools. Finally, technology must not obscure the fact that, whatever the level of technology of an army, the first principle in combat will always be uncertainty.

1 Such as the site, which lists military activities through the prism of various social networks.

2 Dialectic of wills, friction, fog.

3 Andrey Smirnov, AFP, 2011.

4 Laurent Lagneau, blog, article dated 28/08/2018.

5 Bin Laden communicated for a long time by messengers, until one of them made a mistake.

6 Number of Shannon.

7 Pierre Chareyron, Le combat de l'infanterie à l'âge de l'information, IFRI Studies, Strategic Focus No. 30, April 2011.

8 Rémy Hémez, L'avenir de la surprise tactique à l'heure de la numérisation, Études de l'IFRI, Focus stratégique n° 69, July 2016.

9 Training, training, planning, execution, conduct, etc.

Title : ⚡️ Transparency on the battlefield in the light of new technologies
Author (s) : le chef de bataillon Philippe Georges