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Despite continuing macro-level economic and geopolitical changes, the defense industry looks positive as we head into 2023.

New technology leads the ways with additive manufacturing and Maritime 4.0 poised to improve manufacturing efficiency and readiness. Out at sea we will see autonomous surface and subsurface vessels increasingly used in the ocean to gather greater information on hostile forces. Space is definitely the new frontier within the defense industry with major superpowers and NATO all in the mix to manage inter-operational frameworks. Overarching all these developments is the requirement that new technology and associated data is kept safe—so cybersecurity must keep pace.

With all this ever advancing technology, it’s no wonder the general business outlook for the A&D industry is described as “somewhat to very positive” by 88% of senior leaders in a recent Deloitte report. These developments are fueling change in the defense sector so it’s timely to take a deeper dive into the new opportunities I see developing in 2023.

Prediction 1: The future of the defense supply chain – half of A&D manufacturers to use additive manufacturing as a base protocol

Military forces are set to be more reliant on additive manufacturing to help with asset repair, readiness, and prototyping. The next level of 3D printing is already underway with the U.S. Military designing the world’s largest 3D printer capable of printing metal parts 30 feet long, 20 feet wide and 12 feet high. This helps to reflect the fact that 75% of industry experts predict 3D printing will be a base protocol within the next ten years.

The increased use of additive manufacturing will make military forces more self-sufficient and reduce maintenance wait time, currently military forces wait around 25 days for repairs or new assets from external providers. With the increased use of 3D printing, the logistics footprint of military operating bases will be reduced and allow for bases to exist in more rural locations with less requirements for access to supply lines. However, the merging of two usually separate supply lines, one from third-party vendors and now internal additive manufacturing can lead to new logistics challenges with competing Total Asset Readiness® priorities. This reinforces the fact that Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) tooling is required to enhance decision making from usual logistics personnel.

Prediction 2: Maritime 4.0 and digital shipyards are expected to grow nearly 20% annually through 2030

Industry 4.0 has improved the efficiency of designing, manufacturing, and constructing ships due to the new technologies it encapsulates. In 2023 these developments will be underpinned by AI, ML, and digital twins to advance digital shipyards and Maritime 4.0. Maritime 4.0 has given manufacturers clearer coordination, operations, and maintenance. The digital shipyard market is already expected to be worth $693 million in 2022 and then reach $3,967 million by 2030 at a CAGR of 19%.

Shipyards are hoping for a greener more sustainable future with Maritime 4.0 with aims to reduce Co2 emissions and meet net zero goals. In order to help achieve these aims, the maritime industry recently received a £206 million investment from the UK department of Transport. However, hitting these targets will require cutting-edge software.

Prediction 3: A third of fleets to be autonomous in the next 20 years

The use of autonomous vessels has increased across both sides of the Atlantic, with the UK Royal Navy’s new Testbed ship which allows for it to deploy the MAST-13 AUV, a water-borne drone able to identify mines and gain information on hostile forces. The U.S. military followed suit by unveiling its third unmanned surface vessel fitted with advanced combat and navigation systems called ‘The Mariner’ which with a few more developments is hoped to be deployed in 2030. The U.S. navy hope this is the start of their NAVPLAN which aims to have unmanned surface and subsurface vessels make up 1/3 of its fleet.

These vessels allow for military forces to put less warfighters in danger and enable forces to survey previously dangerous areas to gain intel. Bigger payloads can be deployed on these ships due to less area being taken up to house personnel—allowing for more fuel for longer deployments or more sensors to gather greater surveillance.

Due to the vessel being unmanned, a self-monitoring and diagnostic system needs to be developed to accurately sensor faults and plan for maintenance time. Here is where a digital twin ecosystem will be required to keep these autonomous vessels mission ready.

Prediction 4: Space emerges as the new frontier: predicted to reach a 12.25% CAGR by 2029.

The space market is expected to reach the stars by 2029 and be worth $31.90 billion with a CAGR of 12.25%. Space is currently being used to avoid detection from hostile forces or navigate precise missile strikes. Intergovernmental organizations such as NATO are trying to lay operational frameworks as military forces become more reliant on space-driven operations. NATO released the “Overarching Space Policy” in 2022 to lay the foundations for the aspects of the space domain and preserve the alliance security and success.

The policy reinforces that NATO will use space-based assets as a tool to coordinate between members. Important functional areas are highlighted to show the need for space systems such as space situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), space-based monitoring of Earth-based domains, satellite communications, position, navigation, timing, and shared early-warning assets.

Prediction 5: Cybersecurity is crucial to enable the safety of data driven advancements – as 50% of companies are predicted to receive a cyber-attack in 2023

The increased use of digital technology and data-driven operations means that military forces are more susceptible to cyberattacks. Due to this, military forces, and supplier software needs to be able to detect, report, and solve security issues to ensure all data is safe and systems can still function.

Cyber warfare is more prominent than ever before, so in 2023 cyber security needs to be taken to the next level with supporting software infrastructure throughout military supply chains. Security systems need to be pen-tested to prevent and respond to threats from hostile cyber-attacks.

New technologies, new assets, new deployment models will only be possible with improved security

These developments in technology across the defense industry in 2023 show the outlook is very positive—but a secure digital backbone is critical to maximize new technology, equipment, and operational processes. This will also ensure that cyber-security is strong enough to protect data from any potential hostile cyber-attacks.

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