The independent resource on global security

9. Military research and development




World military research and development (R&D) expenditure
in the mid-1990s appears not to exceed $60 billion per year, which represents
a reduction of 50-55 per cent in real terms from SIPRI's last estimate,
in 1987. Of the major investors, only India, Japan, and South Korea continue
to increase their military R&D spending significantly, while the others
reduce or hold steady. Spending in the countries of the former Warsaw Treaty
Organization (WTO) has fallen dramatically since 1987 and accounts for most
of the difference in estimates. Among the major Western countries, France,
Italy, Sweden and the USA have all reduced their military R&D spending by
25 per cent or more from their cold war peaks of spending.

Despite the often-heard observation that the capacity to
innovate and independently produce advanced military technology is proliferating
beyond the bounds of control, it remains difficult for any but a few producers
to develop military systems embodying advanced technology. Even among the
industrialized countries, the imperative for cooperation is growing. Nevertheless,
the challenge of coordinating major projects internationally is getting
the better of some efforts and fewer products of R&D are entering production.
Smaller projects which are more responsive to the participants' national
requirements are becoming more popular than grand enterprises.

Major European collaborations have proved to be more complex
than expected, and many have failed - as illustrated by Spain's initiative
to build up its military technology base in the past seven years. Spain
has become disenchanted with the model of European defence cooperation embodied
in multinational consortia and now favours smaller, more practicable bilateral
projects that are more responsive to its requirements and capabilities.
Sweden has realized a number of advantages by limiting itself to projects
consistent with its novel defence concept and thereby developing sought-after
niche technologies. Ironically, Sweden is in a stronger position for cooperation
with the NATO states than Spain, now that it is more open to collaborative
projects; Spain took to NATO projects with more gusto in the late 1980s.
Both countries remain dependent on the USA for military technology, as do
most of the states with which the USA has a friendly relationship. With
its nearest competitor spending less than one-eighth as much on military
R&D, the US military technology base continues to maintain and offer
important advantages.

India demonstrates the difficulties of developing advanced
military technology indigenously. Despite the fact that most countries are
beginning to resign themselves to a reduced R&D capability, the belief that
military R&D will soon release a new wave of proliferation persists. In
the words of one journalist: 'Military research and development [no longer]
remains the prerogative of a handful of industrialized, wealthy nations'.
The discussion in this chapter suggests that such is not the case.