Transforming Armed Forces in the 21st Century

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Olivier Schmitt


University of Southern Denmark


DKK 3,890,000




Semper Ardens: Accelerate


In recent years, Western armed forces have been engaged in a variety of different military interventions: conventional warfare, air campaigns, counter-insurgency operations or peacekeeping. Simultaneously, (re-)emerging countries such as China and Russia drastically modernised their armed forces during the past decade, thus constituting a new challenge for Western armed forces. Moreover, the emergence of new technologies (automation, AESA radars, directed energy weapons) provides new means to wage warfare that have a deep impact on the way armed forces are organised. This project will examine the drivers of contemporary military transformations, and their consequences for the stability of the international system and the future of Western armed forces.


It is an important academic issue, since the current theoretical literature is mainly focused on explaining specific instances of military change. Simultaneously, researching three mechanisms of military change tracks will thus permit a major theoretical breakthrough through the development of a unified framework. This research also has major policy implications in terms of defense budgets and procurement, doctrinal adaptation and multinational cooperation.


The project has three interrelated research tracks, which will be studied through the development of a common theoretical framework for studying military transformation. The first track deals with the internal dynamics impacting the transformation of Western armed forces, including lessons learned from current and recent deployments, threat perception and alliance politics. The second track explores how near-peer competitors such as Russia and China transform their own armed forces, and the strategic consequences for Western armed forces. The last track researches the strategic consequences of emerging technologies on the future of warfare and the Western way of war. Overall, these three tracks seek to identify the endogenous or exogenous drivers of defense transformation.

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