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British military taking steps to make multidomain integration a reality

LONDON — The British Ministry of Defence is taking steps this fall to better integrate its capabilities across multiple domains. But despite laying out its ambitions, the agency still needs a true concept of operations to move forward, according to a top official.

The United Kingdom’s defense apparatus has identified multidomain integration, or MDI, as a critical means to maintain advantage over threats that are becoming more and more dissipated and asymmetrical across domains and battlefields.

Although the concept of operations still needs to be fleshed out, the MoD has identified several capability themes to be developed “over this autumn period to Christmas,” to be culminated in a new management strategy and implementation plan, said Lt. Gen. Rob Magowan, commandant general to the Royal Marines, and deputy commander of U.K. Strategic Command.

The first of these capability themes involves data and simulation systems, including building digital twin software and new decision support tools, while another theme encompasses operational command and control, he said Tuesday during a panel discussion at the biennial DSEI conference in London.

MoD officials just signed off on a new study regarding operational C2 several days ago, with the hope of figuring out, “how are we going to become more dispersed, more agile, more redundant and more resilient across our operational command and control network?” he noted.

U.K. Strategic Command also recently tapped a one-star military official to deliver an operating concept for the electromagnetic activities and cyber domains, Magowan said. And several high-ranking officials are developing a strategy that envisions a new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) enterprise, “one that’s much more agile, and much less stovepiped,” he said.

But in order for MDI to be realized, the problem of ownership — who owns the data at the end of the day — needs to be fleshed out, Magowan acknowledged.

“What we don’t want to be doing is — come the day of the crisis — renegotiating contracts and code with a third-party supplier,” he said. “We want to be able to do that from a sovereign perspective.”

That conversation remains “immature at the moment in defense,” Magowan added. “We want to have that [conversation] and understand it better — what you think we should be doing in terms of our business model, and what we need to deliver that operational concept.”

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards’ best young defense journalist in 2020.

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