Impact of urbanization on NATO Alliance

The NATO Strategic Foresight Analysis1 (SFA) has identified urbanization as a key security trend with a potential to significantly impact NATO. The rapid pace of urbanization com­bined with the lack of effective governance in large and megacities (with an urban population greater than 10 million) are expected to result in instability, with the resiliency of urban areas becoming a national security issue for many nations. Increasing urbanization might lead to resource competition, contested ownership and control of critical infrastructure, and increased dependence of coastal urban areas on sea lines of communication. As a consequence, increased urbanization will require NATO involvement in urban areas in the future.

Cities are also increasingly becoming prime targets of military, political and terror­ist attacks, and are environments of violence and conflict. It is not a matter of „if” but rather „when” NATO will be involved in urban opera­tions across the spectrum of conflict from hu­manitarian to stabilization missions and combat operations. Precisely because urban operations remain complex, challenging, and difficult to sustain and win, cities are also the most likely environment for a serious adversary to chal­lenge NATO. This grants urban operations spe­cial attention and its own set of conceptual op­erationalization, specific doctrine and training, and adapted weapons and equipment. To effectively conduct joint urban operations, NATO Forces will require continuous interaction with the urban environ­ment:

  • Understanding the urban operating environment
  • Force agility
  • Interaction with the urban environment
  • Functional characteristics


ICT challenges for military operations in contested urban environments

Information is crucial for military operations. Situational awareness or even understanding leads to better decisions and actions, which lead to successful missions. However, information provisioning in military operations is always challenging. Civil communications systems are either not available, not trusted or subject to hostile activities (jamming, cyber). This results in a disadvantaged infrastructure with limited or interrupted resources such as bandwidth, processing and storage capacity.

Military operations in urban environment are amongst the most dangerous and challenging. Whilst protecting the civilian population, opposing forces are difficult to locate, identify and track.  Communications are hampered by structures and manmade noise. On the other hand a (smart) city provides multiple means that can be exploited by the military, such as: use of civil infrastructures for communication, use of social media for information and communication, use of present sensors (Internet of Things).

Report on Understanding the Military and Science & Technology (S&T) Implications of the new NATO Capstone Concept



  • Concepts and Solutions for Defence
  • Cyber defence, Information Assurance & Risk Management
  • Advanced concepts and analytics for C4ISR
  • Trusted Collaboration and Information Sharing
  • Artificial Intelligence, Machine/deep Learning and cognitive computing
  • Human and Machine teaming
  • Autonomy, Robotics
  • Knowledge Management & Natural Language Processing
  • Resilient Communications and Networks
  • Wireless Communications and Sensor Networks
  • Spectrum Management
  • Electronic Warfare Technologies
  • System Architectures, Modelling and Simulation
  • Advanced Signal/data/image and information processing
  • Emerging and ‘disruptive’ technologies