The British Army is playing a ‘waiting game’ ahead of any commitment to a Dismounted Situation Awareness (DSA) solution, a senior source disclosed to the Future Soldier Technology conference on 12 March.
According to Lt.Col. Toby Lyle, SO1 Command and Battlespace Management, British Army, the DSA effort will be rolled out in a spiral development with initial fielding at a battlegroup level in order to generate lessons learned before being pushed out to additional battlegroups.
This, Lyle asserted, would provide the army with the luxury to buy “slightly different kits” in follow-on spirals, should it be required by dismounted close combat (DCC) community.
The army is currently considering offerings from industry for the first element of the DSA, designated the Battle Management Application (BMA). A contract is due to be signed in August 2018 with competitors including BAE Systems, Elbit Systems and Systematic.
Key elements of the wider DSA concept, Lyle explained, will incorporate a Data Bearer; End User Device in smartphone or tablet form factor; as well as the BMA software application. Additional consideration is also being paid to IP and barrage networks, the latter of which allows the movement of information packets to be controlled through MESH networks.
“We want to look to prove this through experimentation”, he continued to describe while explaining how funding for this particular element is due to be confirmed in April 2018. DSA is aiming to operate approximately 150 nodes in a single network on the battlefield in order to satisfy operational requirements of an infantry company group. The concept is expected to operate across the 1.2 and 1.4 Ghz frequency range.
However, citing multiple challenges expected throughout the development roadmap of the DSA, Lyle explained how integration with the wider Morpheus communications upgrade programme would become a critical requirement in the future.
“The architecture is not ready yet and won’t be for some time so initial spirals will be very small in terms of models we are looking at and therefore won’t be integrated with Morpheus at first,” Lyle admitted. “We are taking a risk in security in the meantime and will worry about linking with Morpheus at a later date.”
Finally, Lyle explained ongoing cooperation with the US Army’s Nett Warrior future soldier team, which is also generating DSA type capabilities. Lyle described how British Army liaison staff were participating in the US Army Expeditionary Warfighting Experiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia between January and June 2018.
Examples of such collaboration include the consideration of an additional member of a DCC section or squad specifically tasked with dealing with connectivity across the battlefield. Lyle explained how the British Army would be considering such a move over the course of the UK MoD’s Army Warfighting Experiment later in 2018.