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Developing agile training programs for emerging technologies in Defence

The rapid proliferation and democratisation of game-changing technology from uncrewed systems to artificial intelligence-enabled weapons or sensor platforms necessitate an agile training program to maximise the capability of the workforce, but getting those training programs right is key, explains Rob Sutton, managing director, Mirragin RAS Consulting.

The rapid proliferation and democratisation of game-changing technology from uncrewed systems to artificial intelligence-enabled weapons or sensor platforms necessitate an agile training program to maximise the capability of the workforce, but getting those training programs right is key, explains Rob Sutton, managing director, Mirragin RAS Consulting.

As emerging technologies such as drones, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), rockets, and additive manufacturing continue to shape the defence landscape, it is imperative for Defence and defence industry to develop training programs that can effectively address the challenges and opportunities presented by these advancements.

Emerging technologies in the defence sector encompass a wide range of innovations that have the potential to transform military operations. From uncrewed systems like drones and uncrewed fighting vehicles to advanced AI algorithms and additive manufacturing techniques, these technologies are reshaping the way defence personnel operate, collaborate, and engage with the battlefield.


Traditional training methods are often ill-suited to address the rapidly evolving nature of emerging technologies. As these technologies continue to advance at an accelerated pace, training programs must be agile and adaptable to keep pace with the changes. The overarching theme in developing training programs for emerging technologies lies in adopting a different mindset that emphasises flexibility, continuous learning, and innovation.

Start with a Diverse Base: Cultivating a wide range of skillsets

The unique nature of emerging technologies makes it challenging to identify specific profiles or skill sets required for effective operation. As technologies evolve and diversify, defence organisations must focus on developing a diverse base of skills among trainees. By embracing individuals from various backgrounds, disciplines, and expertise, the training program can tap into a wide range of perspectives, problem-solving approaches, and innovative ideas.

Many emerging technologies have a strong information technology basis, and a diverse workforce will need to include people with skills in AI and Machine Learning (ML) to enable today’s data analysis, predictive modelling, natural language processing, and computer vision technology. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is already well used within Defence for training, and simulation, and has emerging potential in an operational context. Data Science and analytics plays a crucial role in decision-making, requiring skills in data analysis, statistical modelling, and data visualisation. Other areas such as edge computing that focuses on processing data closer to the source or device, reducing latency and improving real-time processing capabilities, and quantum computing that utilises quantum phenomena to perform complex computations will also become more common place in modern defence capabilities. Then there are other associated technologies at various stages of maturity, such as, cloud computing, blockchain, automation, and the ever-present need for cyber security.

A diverse base of trainees facilitates an environment of cross-disciplinary collaboration, enabling the exchange of knowledge and experiences. This collaborative culture promotes adaptability and encourages the exploration of different solutions to emerging technological challenges. By learning from a diverse pool of trainees, defence organisations can gather valuable insights into the necessary characteristics and skill sets for success in emerging technology domains.

Micro-Training: Supplementing traditional training with short, sharp videos

The tension between the need to continually upskill and maintain workforce persistence makes it difficult to release people for long periods of specialist training. Micro-training will be essential to an effective training program for emerging technologies. Micro-training breaks down complex concepts into short, focused videos that appeal to the younger generation who consume information differently. Concise video modules would enable trainees to quickly grasp specific knowledge and skills, allowing for efficient and targeted learning. Although it is essential that these sessions are well structured to ensure a cohesive learning experience. Furthermore, the modular nature of micro- training facilitates easy updates to content as technologies evolve, ensuring that the training remains current and relevant.

However, while micro-training can be time efficient, flexible and targeted, it has some potential drawbacks which means it is not a stand-alone treatment. Longer courses can provide broader context thorough exploration of subjects, provide the necessary context, and allow time for learners to practice and refine their skills, enabling them to achieve a higher level of mastery. A combination of both approaches, where micro training is used for targeted skill development and long courses for in-depth knowledge, can provide a well-rounded learning experience.

Education through Play: Tinkering with technology

Education through both structured and unstructured play offers a valuable approach to training for emerging technologies. In this context, ‘play’ is considered as ‘tinkering’ with technology, where trainees are given hands-on experience to problem solve with the technology. Deliberate play, where trainees actively apply the technology to explore its capabilities and limitations, fosters a deeper understanding of the technology's potential applications and challenges. This approach encourages
curiosity, experimentation, and problem-solving skills. Play-based learning augments micro-training in that it provides a context-rich environment where learners can connect new information and concepts to real-life situations. It taps into the intrinsic motivation of learners, making the educational experience more engaging and enjoyable and encourages self-directed exploration, and often result in long-term retention of knowledge and skills.

VR provides a practical tool for training in complex emerging technologies. VR simulations allow trainees to experience realistic scenarios without the associated risks or costs. For example, VR can be used to train personnel in handling rockets, operating uncrewed fighting vehicles, or managing drone swarms. By immersing trainees in virtual environments, they can gain hands-on experience, practice decision-making, and develop critical skills in a safe and controlled setting.


Developing training programs for emerging technologies in the defence sector requires a departure from traditional approaches. The rapid evolution of these technologies demands agility and adaptability in training programs, necessitating the integration of micro-training and education through play.

Leveraging trainees' existing practices, such as consuming information through short online videos, and fostering deliberate play enables effective learning and skill development. Additionally, starting with a diverse base of trainees facilitates the identification of the required characteristics and skill sets for emerging technology domains. By embracing these principles, defence organisations can equip their personnel with the knowledge, skills, and mindset necessary to harness the full potential of emerging technologies in defence operations.

Rob Sutton is the Managing Director, Mirragin RAS Consulting.

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