DSEI 2021: CGS underscores the transformation of warfare


“The competitive cycle is heating up and the real challenge is just keeping up with it,” said Mark Carleton-Smith, CGS generator for the British Army, on September 15 during DSEI 2021. (Photo: British Army / Crown Copyright)

The British Army must run fast to gain a credible advantage over our potential adversaries, says General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith.

The Chief of the General Staff (CGS) of the British Army has warned that the future nature of the conflict has already emerged after recent campaigns around the world.

In an address to the delegates of the DSEI on September 15, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith proposed “the characteristics of a different kind of land war” [were] already visible ‘in the modern operating environment.

“Today’s threats feel much more hybrid,” he warned. “The competitive cycle is heating up and the real challenge is just keeping up with it.”

Carleton-Smith added, “Regaining operational advantage and being able to leverage technological innovation should create a credible advantage over our potential adversaries.”

In particular, the CGS highlighted the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between the armed forces of Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to an analysis published by RUSI in October 2020, the conflict envisaged the use of precision attack means at operational depth, which “were once considered the sole reserve of the great powers”.

Carleton-Smith suggested that the British Army prioritize investments in deep battles and attack and protect the force with greater precision at greater distances. He also called for the army to be better connected and used to overcome a number of “inescapable realities”, including a growing and more transparent battleground; increased range and lethality of swarms of drones; the centrality of the data; and the growing applications of remote and autonomous systems.

The CGS referred to this transition as the “midway moment” for the British Army (in relation to the Battle of Midway in the Pacific Ocean in 1942, in which opposing ships competed against each other from a distance of 100 nm) and raised a number of disruptive ones Technologies emerge that could help the force into the future.

That includes AI and quantum mechanics, he added before also referring to long-range surveillance and target acquisition, ground reconnaissance and EW solutions that can complement precision attack facilities.

“We are relying heavily on technology to create a tougher, tougher, and more dangerous army with a more dynamic global stance, larger training centers, and permanent presence,” noted Carleton-Smith.

“The net result is a set of features that are optimized for the challenges of the digital age. The army is becoming more digitally networked and networked and more specialized. But when it struggles it will be more deadly, mobile, and better protected, with more specialized partnering capabilities to operate with proxy and proxy. ‘


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