Colonel Prof. Bojan Zrnić, PhD, Head of the Defense Technology Department
15. 07. 2010
DEVELOPMENT AS A MUST
In the following period, the Serbian Armed Forces will have to overcome the technological gap compared to other sophisticated armed forces. The assigned resources will not be small and they will require an efficient and transparent process in order to achieve required results. The Defense Ministry Defense Technology Department and all participants in the process have to develop their own capacities for it to be carried out adequately. It is our goal in future work - said Colonel Bojan Zrnić, Head of the Department.
Colonel Prof. Bojan Zrnić, PhD, is the new Head of the Serbian Defense Ministry Defense Technology Department. He is one of the youngest heads in the defense system. His ideas are modern and his need to introduce changes where they are needed is very clear.
He finished military high school as the best student, and the Military Technical Academy, department of electronics, specialty missile systems, as the first in class.
During his military career he was both practitioner and theoretician.
He experienced troops, war, as well as an inspiration working in military education - he attained M.A. degree, PhD, worked as a teacher of electronics at the Military Technical Academy, and at the department of radar and missile systems he advanced from the assistant to the head of the department. In the Defense Ministry Department for Strategic Planning and General Staff Department for Planning and Development, he had an opportunity to study the development and equipping of the armed forces with armament and military equipment. He perfected his knowledge studying at the Royal College of Defense Studies in Britain and the Marshall Center in Germany.
He never broke the link between education and science. He published 65 scientific papers in the field of military electronics and telecommunication, twenty of them at international conferences. Now, as the Head of the Defense technology Department, armed with knowledge and experience, he can significantly influence some of the processes.
The Defense Technology Department is responsible for research, development, modernization, production and maintenance of weapons and equipment. It also includes the Military Technical Institute and the Technical Repair Institute in Kragujevac, and cooperates with the defense industry plants. All factors needed for the creation of local armament and military equipment are present. Such a model has survived the most difficult years. Will it survive in the future also?
Recently the model has indeed proven to be effective and rather efficient, so it may be considered appropriate and sustainable in the future. It will certainly be adjusted to new conditions, primarily through forms of partnership with the private sector, taking into account the existence of a growing number of local companies which are including the development and production of weapons and military equipment in their portfolio. Instead of the usual practice in which the Defense Ministry is the sole financier of the military equipment research and development, more and more attention will be given to projects introducing complementary advantages of the public and private sector, as well as common risk, in the process.
What means have been set aside this year to finance research and development projects in the Military Technical Institute?
The trend of increase in allocations for development projects has continued and they are around 30 percent higher. Around 450 million dinars has been earmarked for direct material costs of research, including the services of subcontractors, and additional 200 million dinars will be invested in the new laboratory equipment after a long break. Significant assets have been set aside for the restoration of vital infrastructure, such as the wind tunnel. However, the reconstruction of personnel is even more important. The Military Technical Institute requires new research energy, because the average age of the researchers is more than 50 years.
This year we received 15 new highly educated experts, and with the change of formation which is in progress, conditions will be created for receiving another thirty. Competition will be opened very soon. In order to mitigate and overcome the departure of a large number of retired researchers, out goals is to employ at least 20 people per year in the next five years. A number of young officers with a high average at the basic studies will be transferred to Military Technical Institute. Apart from these measures, we have also intensified interaction between project teams and end users, and we already have positive experience in this regard, as for example when it comes to developing a mini-unmanned aerial vehicles.
Does Military Technical Institute have competition in the development and modernization of weapons and military equipment?
Military Technical Institute is one of the brands of the defense system and it is likely that, in general, has no competition in the field of armaments and military equipment in the country and the region. That is, above all, confirmed by the references from the past, but also some new ones, such as the aircraft for basic training "Lasta". Of course there are institutions in our country that in certain areas of development excel in relation to MTI and the Institute is mostly cooperating with them, but none of them has such a wide range of capacities. I am sure that the values and the capacity of the Military Technical Institute will be recognized by the Serbian Science and Research Institutes Accreditation Commission. This will create opportunities for participation in competitions announced by the Ministry of Science, but will also create a framework for objective evaluation of the MTI researchers and their results in national territory. Despite the leading position in the field of armament research and development, there is a lot of room for improvement, because we shouldn't rest on our laurels. It's no secret that there is a certain, partly understandable frustration concerning the possibility of successful completion of some long-term development projects. It is often forgotten that the financing of such projects in the initial period was well below the level anticipated by program documents, and that due to organizational changes large fluctuations of personnel within project teams occurred. That inevitably brought discontinuity. The process of research and development is by definition uncertain and projects can be unsuccessful even when all the conditions are provided. This sounds apologetic, but indicates the need for objectification of approach in analyzing the success of development projects in the MTI. Regardless of the possible excuses, I want to emphasize that the business philosophy of the Institute is going to change in the future. The focus will be on the result, that is on the product, rather than the process of research. It will no longer be acceptable for individual departments or groups of researchers to constantly have concrete results, and the other to be unrecognized by their results and concealed by the institutional framework. In this regard, mechanisms will be applied that will evaluate the work of the successful projects, and not rewarding the principle of leveling.
Due to the Serbian Armed Forces modest requirements of the armament and military equipment, export is being encouraged.. The largest pressure is, therefore, on the defense industry factories. To what extent MTI might help them?
In the last three years export growth was evident in the Serbian defense industry. It is certainly a consequence of the synergic effect of the restoration and development of political relations with the customer countries, but also the readiness of our defense industry to offer quality products. Faced with the fact that implied your question, the Military Technical Institute set aside part of the capacity in order to accept the demands of defense industry enterprises and provide them with appropriate support in the development of facilities or starting of production. This is a significant source of revenue for the MTI, which provides adequate logistical support to the functioning of the institutions, which, to recall, has 170,000 square feet of space that is heated, and support in conducting the research itself, including the stimulation of successful researchers. It should be stressed that the maintenance of existing and developing of new capabilities of the Institute is a prerequisite for sustainable growth of our defense industry.
New technologies for long-term development of the Army are robotic platforms, various electronic systems and sensor platforms. The absolute hit of the last year's Armament and Military Equipment Fair was "Milica". Will the robotic military technology projects be continued?
Unmanned combat platforms, earth and air, are no longer future, but a reality in current combat operations. Following these trends, the MTI developed the robotic ground combat platform technological demonstrator - Milica. Research in the field of military robotics were continued at the Institute this year also, and we expect that the Serbian Army, as a user, will soon determine the concrete requirements for such funds. In the field of unmanned aerial vehicles a significant progress has been made. The ambition is to develop a whole range of such aircraft - from the mini, which has been introduced in public - Vrabac, to the tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft for medium altitudes with long periods of time spent in the air.
What happened to the initiative for the Technical Repair Institute in Kragujevac to obtain the status of a regional center for repair and decomposition of ammunition?
Technical Repair Institute in Kragujevac is the regional leader in terms of capacity for repair and decomposition of a wide range of ordnance, and in respect to personnel and laboratory facilities for monitoring stability of powder. Part of this system is a unique collection of gunpowder. The Institute operates stably, and the fact that it employs more than 400 workers means that it is a significant revenue generator for the local community. In addition to the overhaul of ammunition, to extend its life, I particularly stress that since 2005 about 12,500 tons of ordnance that were in surplus or pyrotechnically unsafe were decomposed. Following this trend, there is a prospect that in the next two years we will completely solve the problem of surplus ammunition, which would create conditions for the complete stabilization of the management system and the safety of the stored ordnance. We are also facing the renewal of the infrastructure of the Institute, and the construction of technological capacities for environmentally sound decomposition of the so-called G-class ammunition (smoke and illuminating). I expect the Military Repair Institute in Kragujevac to become a part of the Serbian Armed Forces General Staff, like it was already done with the Institute in Čačak and the Air Force Institute in Batajnica.
Defense Technology Department is also responsible for standardization, metrology and codification of the defense system. These functions are less known to the public, and are very important for the system. Have there been significant changes in their organization and work?
The public is really not sufficiently aware of the importance of these functions and it seems as if they were moved into the background. This is not good because they are the basis for weapon systems life cycle support, they shorten development time, enable more efficient and economical production and maintenance, performance in world markets, and logistics interoperability. Standardization in the defense system has technological and operational and organizational aspects. The technological aspect is related to weapon systems, and operational and organization is related to tactics, techniques and procedures in carrying out military activities. The Defense Technology Department is in charge of the technological aspects, and the General Staff Department for Planning and Development is in charge of the operative standards. Application of standards in a particular area requires a disciplined and structured process, which is a big challenge. Often euphoria after the adoption of a standard ends with individual enthusiasm, and this must change. The number of defense standards exceeds 6.000 and significant work ahead of us to finalize their translation into electronic form. In addition to the defense standards, there are technical regulations - most of them related to the quality of products, which should also be transferred into electronic form, which would facilitate both the access and the search. This task should be completed by the middle of next year. Also, we should normatively regulate the use of international civilian standards, for example the ISO and the specific military standards - MIL and STANAG. In October this year, a round-table on the standardization in the defense system will be held.
Codification is a process of marking, describing and classifying of weapons and military equipment in a unique way. That creates conditions for interoperability and interchangeableness, which maximizes the logistic support, especially in multinational environments.
Metrology activities in the defense system include the making of regulations, calibration, metrology lab work, supervision and training of personnel to ensure high product and service quality and more efficient and reliable operation of weapon systems. The system has 14 metrological laboratories, which have more than 1400 standards. Maintenance of the system is not cheap, but is necessary, so that this year, after a long time, a number of primary standards will be sent to the competent foreign laboratories for calibration. The Law on Metrology of the Republic of Serbia was passed in May this year, so a new Regulation on metrology activities in the field of defense will also be drafted.
The holder of these activities is the Department's newly formed Directorate of Standardization, Metrology and Codification. It will be faced with great challenges, and a key prerequisite is to acquire the appropriate staff.
Your department is also in charge of the international military-technical cooperation. What are the prospects in this area?
The International military-technical cooperation is carried out in coordination with the Defense Policy Sector Department for International Military Cooperation. I think that there is significant room for improving the current level of activity in the area, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
On a bilateral level, the standard formats are joint committees for military technical cooperation, and such are few, such as with Egypt, Israel, Portugal. Formation of the committee with the Russian Federation and Ukraine is in progress. On a multilateral level, in addition to the aforementioned joining of the NATO codification committee, it is our wish to formalize cooperation with the agencies for supply and maintenance (NAMSA) and research and development (RTO).
The Department is also in charge of preparing the agreement for granting import and export licenses for armament and dual-use goods, and the job is very dynamic because of the growing volume of imports and exports, and the number of domestic companies that are registered to conduct foreign trade in this area. Currently there are more than 150 of them. A significant segment of the international military technical cooperation implemented by the Department is also the implementation of international conventions in the field of armament and military equipment.
Finally, I should mention education in military technical field for foreign countries, which is carried out in MTI, in cooperation with the Military Academy. The training of 20 listeners from Algeria is in progress and they should defend their theses by the end of this year and return to their country after two and a half years in Serbia.
These are the most valuable long term investments because they open the door for the development of military technical cooperation in other forms, such as, for example, joint development and technology transfer.
When will a new Regulation on equipping of the Serbian Armed Forces, one of the very important system documents, which regulates the field of equipping with the armament and military equipment be ready?
Equipping of the Army with weapon systems includes research, development, testing, manufacturing and modernization. I want to remind you that a methodology of army development based on capabilities is being applied in the process of drafting of the Long-term Plan for Defense System Development until 2020. The model is a widely used concept of key operational capabilities which includes timely availability of forces, effective intelligence and security, effective engagement, command and control, resistance and force protection, mobility and sustainability. Another model in which the development of these key operational capacities is carried out through a combination of the following factors - doctrine, training, organization, armament, education, personnel, infrastructure and interoperability. In this sense, the equipping with armament and military equipment is exclusively focused on the operational capacity which should be reached in order to perform the tasks arising from the missions of the army, and not, as is often the case, on the introduction of new or replacement of the existing platform or weapon system just because it is one's interests or a superficial assessment, but not an actual need.
The equipping with armament and military equipment is, therefore, a key material factor in the development of operational capabilities of the army, which is why it is of high importance to make it effective, efficient and economical. The new Regulation on equipping of the Serbian Armed Forces with armament and military equipment should establish the organization, control mechanisms and procedures that should enable it.
Recognizing the fact that the system has a long and successful tradition and that in relation to it control and enforcement mechanisms for all participants in the process have been developed, including a specific vocabulary and a distinctive system of documents, the new regulation will keep an important part of organizational and technological procedures of the current regulation, especially when it comes to models of equipping. The changes will affect more the control of the process of the equipping, taking into account the organization of the defense system and authorities that are radically changed in relation to the period when the current regulation was adopted.
What new solutions will be included in the Regulation?
The basic principles on which a new system equipment should be based, which will reflect on the solutions in the Regulations, are the abovementioned focus on the necessary military capabilities, rather than the weapon systems alone, integrated monitoring of weapon systems throughout the life cycle, greater involvement of end users in all phases of equipping, consideration of the total life cycle cost, as a key economic criteria for selection of means, continuous management of equipping project through a number of integral project teams, new forms of cooperation with the military industry, including the partnership with the private sector. Also, the increasing use of modeling and simulation at the stage of requirement defining, reaffirmation of integrated technical support, and application of anti-corruption mechanisms. One of the documents that forms the basis for the development of this regulation is the international standard ISO 15288, which refers to the implementation of methods and techniques of system engineering in the development, exploitation and withdrawing from the use of an asset or system.
It will especially promote an incremental approach to procurement, which will shorten the time
of introduction of weapons and equipment in operational use by, applying the principle that the greatest enemy of a good solution is a perfect solution, not waiting for the means to meet all the required functionalities in order to begin its implementation. In fact, there are many examples showing that great development solutions were never introduced in operational use although they met the essential requirements and the capacity for further improvement, because at the given moment they did not fulfill all the tactical and technical requirements.
It is necessary to regulate the so-called royalties, claimed by the defense system on the armament and military equipment whose development it funded itself, when they are subject to sale to third parties.
Some calculations indicate that at the same level of exports, funds received from royalties would be sufficient to finance many new development projects.
Finally, the process of equipping should be firmly linked with the system for resource allocation, better known as the system of planning, programming, budgeting and execution (PPBI), so that in the future, apart from the main Military Technical Institute, the Council fro Defense Planning will also play a significant role in equipping.
Will other regulations also undergo certain changes?
For the process of equipping to be fully organized and adjusted to the needs of defense system, as well as to the requirements of the environment, apart from the mentioned Regulation, other regulations should be also enacted and amended. I will mention a few. Defense Technology Department is in charge of the drafting of the Law on production of armament and military equipment, which is to replace the Law on production of armament and military equipment from 1996. It will regulate more precisely the area of weapon production. Foreign trade in armament and military equipment and dual-use goods will be regulated by a special law, which is being prepared by the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development.
The realization of equipping with complex combat systems is a long-term process and requires a long-term planning of the budget. Current budget rules are, unfortunately, making it impossible. Instead on the whole, negotiations are underway on parts of the project, implemented within a single budget year, which is in terms of customers certainly suboptimal.
Following the example of neighboring countries, an offset field should be established - reciprocal economic compensation or benefits arising from trade or agreements on the procurement of military equipment - which is often part of the process of procurement of expensive and complex combat systems. This is a mechanism which, for example, enables the buyer to get an important technology that may not necessarily be in the military sphere. Offset arrangements require mature overall administration of the host country, because some analysts claim that those are the biggest sources of corruption in defense procurement.
The adoption of the new Regulation is expected by the end of October, and its application as of next year. In order for the implementation of its decisions to be effective, all participants in the process should be prepared on time. In this sense, there will also be organizational changes in the Defense Technology Department, enabling an integrated control of the equipping process, including the implementation phase of procurement and contract implementation. In addition, it is necessary to carry out formal education and training of staff, taking part in the process of procurement, which is currently not the case.
In cooperation with the Military Academy, through bilateral military cooperation and contracts on a commercial basis with competent institutions, various forms of training will be created - from one-day workshops to postgraduate studies - aimed at training the personnel in the field of system engineering, project management, cost analysis, negotiation, business law, foreign languages and other specialized areas. All this should not be treated as a cost but as a profitable investment.
In the following period, the Serbian Armed Forces will have to overcome the technological gap compared to other sophisticated armed forces. The assigned resources will not be small and they will require an efficient and transparent process in order to achieve required results. The Defense Ministry Defense Technology Department and all participants in the process have to develop their own capacities for it to be carried out adequately. It is our goal in future work.
In late May, Serbia joined the NATO codification program, using another one of the mechanisms available in the Partnership for Peace. This creates the conditions to increase the interoperability of logistics in our units during participation in multinational operations, and, importantly, the products of the Serbian defense industry will be presented in markets that require labeling of weapon systems by the NATO codifying system. Not only markets in NATO countries, but much wider.
However, the current system of nomenclature will not be suspended. The existing nomenclature bases will be checked and a unique link between the two systems established. Our nomenclature system has a wider scope than codification, because, apart from logistics, it includes a production (constructive documentation) and a normative dimension (competence of tactical holders). I have to stress that the introduction of the NATO codification system is not a political but a practical matter and that there are currently 63 countries taking part in this program, including Russia, India and Brazil.
A very important aspect of the Military Technical Institute, less known in public because it doesn't produce a concrete weapon product but greatly engages the capacities of MTI, is the area of expertise and technical assistance that is realized through ad hoc requests from the Serbian Army and defense industry users, in the form of functional tasks. Such tasks are usually related to the assessment of atypical failure in the exploitation of resources, problems in the production process, as well as helping to define technical maintenance procedures.
The prospect of the artillery is not in the number of barrels, but in intelligent ammunition with increased range and in command information system. The Military Technical Institute develops guided artillery munitions. The ambition is to develop a family of intelligent artillery ammunition and a unique fuse for all artillery ammunition. Precision munitions provide greater efficiency, and with a much smaller combat set it offers the same effectiveness as when using conventional munitions.
Now we have a great firepower, but we must quickly and accurately define our targets. Thus the MTI is developing the intelligent multi-sensor platform project, which will integrate all the reconnaissance sensors on a single platform - television camera, thermal imaging camera, laser target marker, laser rangefinder, sound measuring system and radar for ground targets. Using these platforms, regardless of time of day and atmospheric conditions, we will be able to perform acquisition of targets and artillery fire guidance.
The world market is dynamic, users are constantly changing and looking for something new and better. Without new defense industry products, such as smart munitions, new platforms and similar, there is no way to keep current and conquer new markets. Defense industry has a lack of research and development capabilities and can not invest in research and development. But they can get help from MTI. This would provide a positive feedback - part of the export profit will be returned to MTI to help the sustainability of this institution and develop its capacities, and they will have a new product to manufacture and sell. Part of the profits and taxes will be transferred into state fund which also finances the military budget.