Innovative Technology and Capabilities

NATO is developing capabilities and innovative technology that specifically address the issue of terrorism.
The aim is to protect troops, civilians and critical infrastructure against attacks perpetrated by terrorists, such as suicide attacks with improvised explosive devices, rocket attacks against aircraft and helicopters, and the potential use of weapons of mass destruction.

The Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work
The Defence Against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) was developed by the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) at their meeting in May 2004. It was later approved as part of an enhanced set of measures to strengthen the Alliance's fight against terrorism at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004.

The DAT POW is focused on ten critical areas where it is believed technology can help prevent or mitigate the effects of terrorist attacks. Due to the urgent nature of the threat, most projects launched under the programme are focused on finding solutions that can be fielded in the near-term. Individual NATO countries lead the projects with support and contributions from other member countries, CNAD armaments groups, and other NATO bodies.

The ten areas in the programme are:

  • Large aircraft survivability against man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS);
  • The protection of harbours and ports;
  • The protection of helicopters from Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs);
  • Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs);
  • Detection, protection and defeat of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons;
  • Technology for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition of terrorists (IRSTA);
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Consequence Management;
  • Defence against mortar attacks;
  • Critical infrastructure protection;
  • Developing non-lethal capabilities.

An initiative on precision air-drop technologies was wound up at the end of 2008, having achieved its objectives. Those technologies are now being used operationally in Afghanistan.

Initiatives to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN)
NATO is continuing its efforts to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats and hazards. To become more effective, NATO is working on a comprehensive strategic-level policy for preventing the proliferation of WMD and defending against CBRN threats. In addition, efforts are underway to identify capabilities to detect what chemical and biological agents have been used in an attack and to provide appropriate warning.

The NATO multinational Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) defence battalion and Joint Assessment Team, launched at the Prague Summit in 2002, is designed to respond to and manage the consequences of the use of CBRN agents both inside and beyond NATO's area of responsibility. It will operate within the NATO Response Force (NRF) and may also be separately committed to other tasks. NATO-certified Centres of Excellence on CBRN defence (in the Czech Republic) and on defence against Terrorism (in Turkey) further enhance allied capabilities to counter CBRN threats.

Cyber defence
The protection of NATO's key information systems in general, and cyber defence in particular, are integral parts of the functions of the Alliance. However, there have been strong indications of a growing threat to such systems, including through the Internet. Cyber attacks on Estonia in the spring of 2007 heightened general awareness of the issue.

NATO has therefore developed new measures to enhance the protection of its communication and information systems against attempts at disruption through attacks or illegal access. In January 2008, it approved a policy on cyber defence which aims to ensure that the Alliance can efficiently and effectively deal with cyber aggression. It provides direction to NATO's civil and military bodies in order to ensure a common and coordinated approach and contains recommendations for individual countries on the protection of their national systems. In 2008 NATO also established the Cyber defence Management Authority, which has prior authority to deal with rapidly unfolding cyber defence crises.

In addition, NATO is exploring the potential for incremental, practical cooperation on cyber defence with Partner countries. Guidelines for working with partner countries are currently being developed. The recently established Centre of Excellence on Cyber defence in Estonia will serve as a valuable conduit and focal point for NATO's efforts in this field.

Improved intelligence-sharing
Since 11 September 2001, NATO has sought to increase consultations on terrorism and terrorism-related issues among its members, as well as with non-member countries. Information-sharing is one of the key aspects of this exchange and, more specifically, intelligence-sharing.

At the 2002 Prague Summit, improved intelligence-sharing was identified as a key aspect of cooperation among Allies. A Terrorist Threat Intelligence Unit (TTIU) was set up under the NATO Office of Security at the end of 2003, replacing a temporary cell established immediately after the September 11 attacks. The TTIU is now a permanent NATO body composed of officers from civilian and military intelligence and law enforcement agencies which analyses general terrorist threats and threats that are more specifically aimed at the Organization. In addition to regular liaison with Allied intelligence services and national terrorism coordination centres, the TTIU liaises with partner and contact nations and has become NATO HQ's centre of expertise on terrorism.

Furthermore, at the 2004 Istanbul Summit, a decision was taken to review intelligence structures at NATO Headquarters. A new intelligence liaison cell for NATO Allies and partners to exchange relevant intelligence has been created at SHAPE in Mons, Belgium, and an Intelligence Liaison Unit (ILU) operates in NATO HQ to share information sent by non-NATO countries on a voluntary basis.

The Economic and Financial Dimension of Terrorism
Terrorism will continue to be resourced through a range of funding mechanisms, channels and sources. Therefore, measures to counter the financing of terrorism remain crucial to the counter-terrorism effort. The Economic Committee in reinforced session has organized meetings with Allies to share and exchange economic intelligence on these issues. Workshops and meetings are also conducted with partners and have included representatives from relevant international financial institutions and international organizations. These activities are helping to strengthen the international effort in undermining and degrading terrorist funding mechanisms.
Science Cooperation
Defence against terrorism is the first of two key priorities under the Science for Peace and Security Programme since its redirection to security in 2004, contributing to NATO's Strategic Objective "Partnership”. The sub-elements of the Defence Against Terrorism priority identified by the SPS Committee are: Rapid detection, decontamination, and destruction of Chemical, Biological, Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) agents and weapons, rapid diagnosis of their effects on people, and physical protection against them; novel and rapid methods of detection; medical countermeasures; explosives detection; eco-terrorism countermeasures; and computer terrorism countermeasures.

In addition, the NATO-Russia Council SPS Committee identified six defence against terrorism priority topics for its Action Plan, which defines the areas for cooperation between the Russian Federation and NATO nations in security-related civil-science activities. These include: Explosives detection; psychological and sociological consequences of terrorism; CBRN protection; cyber security; transport security; environmental security and ecoterrorism.

The DAT activities under the SPS Programme involve a variety of mechanisms, including workshops, training courses, team collaborations, and multi-year applied Science for Peace (SfP) projects. A few examples of activities initiated under this priority area include:

  • New biosensors for rapid and accurate detection of Anthrax
  • New technology for detection of "dirty bombs"
  • Technologies for cargo container inspection
  • Advanced techniques for bioweapon defence
  • Technology for stand-off detection of explosives (including the suicide bomber case)
  • Treatments for nerve agent poisoning
  • Human and social aspects of terrorist activity (including root causes, social and psychological aspects of terrorism, use of the Internet as a tool for recruitment, and the "intangibles of security”)
  • Protecting information networks from terrorist attacks

This DAT element of the SPS Programme has been successful in bringing together NATO, partner and Russian Federation experts and engineers to cooperate in a range of activities, including practical projects with concrete deliverables. The Programme contributed to better understanding of the terrorist threat, development of detection and response measures, and fostering effective networks of experts in key fields. This work will continue to be a core priority of the Science for Peace and Security Programme (