Defence & Security

Technology & Trench Warfare: How To Succeed Through Innovation

Published on
March 12, 2024

In an era where the aphorism "knowledge is power" has never been more pertinent, the transformational potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems in the theatre of modern warfare, particularly in the context of trench warfare, presents an intriguing paradox.

The financial burdens of warfare necessitate a judicious allocation of resources, where the allure of deploying cutting-edge technology across the battlefield must be weighed against the indispensable value of mastering fundamental military tactics. This juxtaposition underscores the imperative for a recalibrated approach towards innovation in Defence strategies, particularly in the realm of battlefield fortification.

The Western military doctrine

The Western military doctrine, historically rooted in the principles of manoeuvre warfare, posits that agility and superior Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities can dynamically undermine the enemy's resolve and coherence. Yet, the ubiquity of digital technology, from social media to civilian drones, has democratized access to sophisticated surveillance, rendering the battlefield ominously transparent and complicating the calculus of manoeuvre warfare.

The strategic discourse, as illuminated by Peter Roberts in his "This Means War" podcast, suggests that the archetype of relentless movement across the battlefield may not hold universal applicability. The friction of combat and logistical constraints often necessitate operational pauses, challenging the precepts of manoeuvre warfare. The emerging doctrine of "Bite and Hold" posits a resilience against multidimensional counterattacks, marking a return to the significance of entrenched positions in dictating the contours of conflict zones.

The labryrinth of modern warfare

In the labyrinth of modern warfare, the trench, or more aptly, the battlefield fortification, emerges as a nexus of defence and survival. These structures, far from being relics of a bygone era, embody the confluence of force protection engineering and tactical ingenuity. As nations bolster their defences along volatile borders, the question arises: how can rapid, effective fortification be achieved in unprepared terrains?

The advent of AI and autonomous systems heralds a new epoch in military engineering, offering innovative solutions to enhance the efficacy and survivability of entrenched forces. Companies at the forefront of Defence technology are developing deployable systems that promise not only to safeguard lives but also to redefine the strategic value of field fortifications. The Universal Battle Trench, augmented by autonomous excavation technologies demonstrated by entities like Eclips Logistics and Universal Field Robots, exemplifies the synergistic potential of human ingenuity and machine precision in fortifying positions against formidable adversaries.

Integrating technology

However, the integration of technology in the art of defence extends beyond the mere construction of barriers. The role of drones, particularly FPV racing drones as witnessed in contemporary conflicts, underscores the asymmetric advantage that innovative fortifications can provide. Coupled with netting and cage systems, these defences not only offer physical protection but also confound targeting mechanisms, blurring the lines between visibility and vulnerability.

As NATO revisits its tactical doctrines in the wake of prolonged counter-insurgency operations, the conversation pivots towards a nuanced appreciation of trenches and field fortifications. The lessons of history, tempered by the exigencies of modern combat, advocate for a balanced approach where technological prowess complements, rather than supplants, traditional military wisdom. The valorisation of human factors in the design and deployment of military technologies underscores a profound recognition: the terrain of conflict is not only physical but also moral, where the imperatives of protecting lives and preserving ways of life converge.


In contemplating the future of warfare, where the spectres of past conflicts loom large, it becomes evident that the sanctity of human life remains paramount. The integration of AI and autonomous systems in the domain of trench warfare does not signify a retreat to antiquated modes of combat but rather an evolution towards a more humane and strategic application of military power. In the final analysis, the enduring image of the soldier, ensconced in the safety of a well-fortified position, reflects a commitment to a future where technology and humanity march in lockstep, safeguarding the sanctity of life amidst the ravages of war.


A special thanks to Martyn Beardsell, owner of disruptive innovation designers and manufacturers B+SL, for his insightful contributions to this article as a subject matter specialist.

Written by
National Security Director
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