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’.


Qualifying Interoperable defense capabilities

On this basis, it is obvious that qualifying interoperable defense capabilities is the key prerequisite for all defense planners around the globe and a very complex challenge as well.

Our experience in the defense standardization planning has driven us to formulate the following parameters pertaining this challenge:

  • Building capabilities through the formulation of interoperability requirements and implementing best practice standardization solutions in the main pillars of each capability.
  • Selecting and applying best practice standards in defense procurement and throughout the life-cycle of the defense equipment.
  • Adopting best practice standardization management policies, strategies, structures, processes and tools
  • Identifying and accessing the required standards for building up interoperable capabilities


In this section we are analyzing the aforementioned parameters and we are offering best practices adopted successfully by defense organizations internationally.


For further information on the concept of interoperability and the defense planning process please get registered and join us using the DSA Forum.

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