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The supremacy of traditional security and defence systems has driven adversaries towards alternative methods. These ‘grey zone’ approaches include a myriad of new threats described by multiple buzzwords, from asymmetric to hybrid and from 5th generation to sub-threshold. All these make up the “grey zone” and explore the widest range of social, political, economic and military instruments available to achieve maximum effect - but without provoking a conventional response, or even being recognised as formal acts of aggression.

Countering this requires significant change in a number of areas – from risk appetite, to the equipment used, and the skills employed. Technology will play an increasing role in how nations adapt their existing capabilities to fit the way in which adversaries now behave.

This report, Confidence in Chaos: How to use emerging technologies to combat grey zone threats, has been developed to provoke a new dialogue around how organisations can harness the potential of emerging technology to successfully adapt conventional defence and security capabilities and mitigate the impact of adversarial grey zone campaigns – be they organized criminal gangs, international terrorist cells, or nation states. It is based on the breadth of QinetiQ’s (and our partners’) technology and engineering expertise, plus our deep understanding of international defence and security requirements, and our experience of creating, testing and using new ways to protect what matters most.

Existing analyses tend to focus on where this type of conflict has come from and the challenges it presents. This report is different. It recognises that adding to that debate is not going to address the issue. Instead it explores the practicalities of countering grey zone campaigns now, by using the right combinations of emerging technology to adapt existing capabilities and make them better suited to neutralising such threats.

This report will:

  • Outline the common challenges that grey zone activity presents to both defence and security organisations, and the most common modes of grey zone activity today;
  • Offer the ten most promising types of technology which offer the greatest potential for adapting existing capabilities to these new threats;
  • Provide guidance on how to bring these technologies together in the right combinations for known grey zone scenarios;
  • Provide recommendations on how to adopt these technologies in a safe and assured way.

Download the full summary here


This infographic outlines the five modes of grey zone hostility.

It includes some real-world and hypothetical scenarios that represent grey-zone aggressions, paired with the current technologies and methods used to mitigate the threat, and emerging technologies which could be used to stop these dangers in the future. 


Download the infographic

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The Growth of Grey Zone Campaigning

The Growth of Grey Zone Campaigning

In the last decade, grey zone campaigning has become a recognised threat to Western nations. There are three fundamental global changes driving a significant shift from open warfare to sub-threshold tactics:

  • Access to emerging technologies
  • The growth of novel domains
  • The emergence of a new world system

We look at each in turn, outlining their impacts on defence and security doctrine.

Download the Growth of Grey Zone Campaigning summary

The role of emerging technology in adapting to meet grey zone challenges

We have identified 10 technology areas that can help the West reclaim its advantage in the grey zone via technological superiority, without lowering legal and ethical standards.

Technology Areas

They are grouped into:

  • Front line technology areas (those deployed directly in grey zone competition)
  • Supporting technology areas (those which indirectly assist grey zone operations; aiding the design, manufacture and assurance of front line technologies)

Download full details on the 10 technology areas