One of the other main areas where defense standardization is seen as imperative is military interoperability. The concept of interoperability relates mainly to three dimensions: Cultural (Doctrine, Terminology), Technical (defense materiel), and procedural (TTPs) in other words to standardization of systems, doctrine and training. Given that most military operations in the present period occur within a multilateral environment, there is a clear need for systems and replacement parts to meet the needs of interoperability within and between armed forces.

As DeVore states, ‘when levels of interoperability are low, joint operations suffer from complex supply arrangements, incompatible communications, and complicated mission planning. Thus, allied states should militarily benefit from armaments collaboration, even in the absence of economic advantages’.

This point cannot be overstated, especially given that warfare and crisis management over the past few decades has been characterized by coalitions of the willing and network centric warfare. As Arntzen and Grøtan argue, while ICT and improved battlefield communications and precision strike appear to have condensed time and space, they have placed an even greater onus on partnering militaries to ensure that they are technologically and doctrinally similar.

This is especially so in a context where military operations are increasingly challenging, and where it is difficult at the best of times to ensure coherence between multiple military partners. Yet the logic of common military requirements has not easily become the norm for armed forces and/or governments in Europe, even though standardization seems logical and rational for allies to follow in a NATO and the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) context.

As Taylor has remarked, while NATO is a security community with collaboration at its heart, economic interests and domestic considerations hamper standardization because ‘while weapons standardization can improve military effectiveness in the alliance and save billions of dollars in R&D costs and systems redundancy, it can also mean loss of sales (particularly in third-country transfers) and of control of military high technology for members of the alliance’. The same applies to standardization at the EU level, too. For the standardization of systems (or system of systems) to work efficiently, for example, there needs to be EU-wide agreement on the basic common military requirements required to answer different types of military tasks (e.g. deterrence and national defense, crisis management operations, humanitarian missions, peace missions, surveillance tasks, etc.). In essence, armaments standardization rests on an ability of a group of states and militaries to identify common levels and understandings of lethality, maneuverability, performance, endurance, etc. Agreement is not easy given that beyond the standardization of systems and components lies other forms of non-material standardization related to the synchronization of institutions, doctrines, terminology and training.

In this respect, broader armaments standardization might be a hindrance to securing a military advantage over partners and allies (i.e. sought in order to ensure a degree of specialization and therefore a niche added value in the context of an alliance or military coalition) and adversaries and rivals (i.e. using technology to serve as a deterrence and/or to overcome military technological symmetry or parity).

Finally, some military planners resist a high degree of standardization for fear that it will diminish security of supply by increasing in some cases the military’s dependence on a single supplier (or a small supplier group). As Sandler and Hartley point out, in some cases a ‘diversity of weapons and forces is needed as an insurance against the failure of standardized weapons and to meet the variety of future unknown and unknowable threats’.

Source note:

Information provided under the subtitle “Interoperability” is part of the Study on “European Armaments Standardization' - EP/EXPO/B/SEDE/FWC/2017-01/01 EN October 2018 - PE 603.872 – European Parliament - Directorate General for External Policies of the Union - Policy Department for External Relations. The “European Armaments Standardization” Study can be found here

A key prerequisite for all defense planning activities is to qualify interoperable and cost-effective defense capabilities. It is obviously a long term endeavor which requires, in our view, the following approach:

  • Development or Harmonization of Defense, Security and Industrial Strategies. By harmonizing defense, security and industrial strategies we are driving the development of dual-use / hybrid capabilities to meet emerging defense and security challenges, strengthening interoperability, optimizing in parallel the use of available resources and strengthening the Defense Industrial Technological Base.
  • Synchronization of national defense planning with international defense planning projects. The synchronization and harmonization of national and international defense planning projects allow us to strengthen interoperability in multinational coalitions, join Smart Defense and Pooling and Sharing (Cluster) Multinational Programs sharing the burden costs, participating in new technologies and strengthening the role of the National Industrial Technological Base in international consortia supporting the economic growth.
  • Establishment of a Defense Accreditation and Certification System. It is fundamental for all defense organizations to establish a Defense Accreditation and Certification System in order to ensure conformity of the defense equipment with the defense standards provisions. This system safeguards the reliability, maintainability and life-cycle of defense materiel and guarantees that the systems meet the required interoperability criteria set while we are designing the related defense capability.
  • Establishment of a mutual defense qualification acceptance system with Allies and partner nations. A mutual defense qualification acceptance system is considered essential especially between allies that are engaged in the form of consortium in the development of defense capabilities and the co-production or the follow-on support of defense equipment. This system recognizes and accepts the accreditation and certification systems established by the consortium parties, avoiding duplication of efforts and time/money consuming procedures on the certification of defense materiel standards during the production and/or acquisition and follow-on support of defense equipment.
  • Establishment of a strong link between National SDOs, Academia, Industry and Defense and Security Stakeholders. Estimations on product cost savings following a more intensive use of civil standards by the military sector range from 10% up to 50%. On this basis the cooperation of all stakeholders on defense, security and civil standardization, including academia offering research and innovation is fundamental to optimize the use of resources, maximize operational effectiveness and upgrade qualitative services and products in both civil and defense arena.
  • Establishment of Higher Education and Training on Defense Planning, Acquisition and Standardization. Quality is not an act, it is a habit. Building a robust mind-set on defense planning, acquisition and standardization best practices, is fundamental for developing interoperable capabilities. The human dimension of interoperability is considered even more critical than the technical and procedural ones towards successful capabilities development. To this end it is necessary for all defense organizations around the world to establish higher education on Defense Planning, Acquisition and Standardization.
  • Application of best practice standards in defense procurement and throughout the life-cycle of the defense equipment. The application of the best practice defense and civil standards in the defense procurement guarantying the reliability and maintainability of the defense equipment, stretching the life-cycle of the equipment to the maximum possible extent reducing in parallel its cost and facilitating interoperability with future defense acquisition programs.
  • Application of best practice standardization management policies, strategies, structures, processes and tools. Defense Standardization bodies have a critical role in qualifying interoperable capabilities. On this it is essential for a defense standardization organization to establish a defense standardization policy (what), a related strategy (how) an integrated structure (one stop service) for overseeing and harmonizing standardization activities, a dynamic process for developing, maintaining and managing defense standards integrated within the defense planning process and the necessary tools (databases, collaborative platforms, tracking tools) for the management of standardization projects and facilitating the capabilities related interoperability profiles.


The application of best practice defense and civil standards in the defense procurement guarantying the reliability, maintainability and quality of the defense equipment, safeguarding the life-cycle of the equipment reducing in parallel its cost and facilitating interoperability with future defense acquisition programs.

There is plethora of parameters influencing the selection of the most suitable defense and civil standards for a defense acquisition program. Beyond the operational and defense planning requirements the criteria to select best practice standards for defense procurement are provided from the defense organizations on a case by case basis through specific management tools such as the US Defense Standardization Program ASSIST, UK DSTAN StanMIS, NATO NSDD, EDSTAR databases etc.

This section provides best practices when implementing defense standards in support of defense planning and interoperability.The methods / practices used for implementation may vary depending on which domain a defense standard belongs to. There are the following three main domains within defense standardization:

  • Operational domain

Defense Standards within the operative domain specify conceptual, organizational and methodological requirements that may be redeemed (fulfilled) through the configuration and use of material, operating procedures and organization of military forces so as to achieve desired interoperability in military operations.

  • Material domain

Defense standards within the material domain specify material-specific requirements for equipment and systems, maintenance requirements and user requirements throughout the life cycle of the equipment.

  • Administrative domain

Defense standards within the administrative domain simplify NATO's administration in various areas, including but not limited to terminology, funding, personnel and military degree systems.

It is essential for a defense standardization organization to launch and operate the necessary tools (databases, collaborative platforms, and tracking tools) for the development and implementation of defense standards, the management of standardization projects towards facilitating the defense capabilities to born interoperable. In this section we are presenting well known defense standardization management tools.