A French soldier performs a military exercise in front of French President Emmanuel Macron
and other leaders prior to the 2019 Bastille Day military parade in Paris.
PARIS — In November, a team of French science fiction writers working with the country’s military dreamed up a new program, known as Myriade, to head off future threats: one that would help nations detect the manipulation of public opinion.
The move quickly proved prescient.
In March, a deepfake of Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelenskyy surfaced on social media and one of the country’s hacked news sites. The altered video appeared to show Zelenskyy telling Ukrainian soldiers to surrender to Russia.
It was exactly the type of cognitive warfare that the group of writers known as the Red Team want to render meaningless.
After French military leaders watched the broadcast, they accelerated the program’s timeline, Emmanuel Chiva, the head of France’s defense innovation agency, said Monday. He declined to offer more details, citing the program’s classified nature. Myriade is expected to launch in three years with a methodology to counter such threats.
The program is an example of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing nations around the world to reconsider how they invest in future technologies.
In the U.S., the conflict is driving a greater emphasis on commercial technologies, such as satellite imagery from companies including Planet and Maxar. French and U.S. military leaders said Tuesday at the conference that officials need to invest in war games and capabilities that challenge long-held assumptions. For France, the conflict means a focus on fast, low-cost and resilient systems without sacrificing technological advancements.
“Yes, we have a crisis right now,” Chiva said on the first day of the Eurosatory conference in Paris. “We should also prepare for the future.”
Chiva, whose agency works to bridge new technology to military applications, pointed to the need for continued investments in artificial intelligence, robotics, space, drones and directed energy. He also called out the need for funding in less frequently discussed areas such as hypervelocity and seabed warfare.
In an interview with Defense News, Chiva pointed to a pair of projects from recent months that the invasion in Ukraine helped shape. In May, his office announced programs known as Colibri and Larinae, French names for hummingbirds and seagulls. The office wants to find ways for drones, once used only for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to carry payloads that can help take out armored vehicles.
“The idea is to have a low-cost solution to be able to target and neutralize an armored vehicle within 5 kilometers or within 50 kilometers,” he said. “What we say that is we want something that’s easy to use, not a lot of training, low cost compared with very sophisticated designs for example. We want it fast, and we want a demonstration by 2024 and we don’t tell the people exactly what we want in terms of systems. It could be a swarm of drones … I don’t know. I don’t care. It’s quite new.”