BATTLESPACE Editor visited PA Consulting to discuss the Morpheus Programme with Tony Reeves, Technical Director of the PA Consulting-led NEO Team.
History of The Bowman project
Twenty-five years ago, the Editor was signed up by the fledgling ITT Defence (UK), headed by Peter Bedwin, out of a small office in Maidenhead, to run the Public Relations Campaign for the forthcoming Bowman radio requirement for the British Armed forces. The rest, as they say, is history.
The competition started in disarray with 150 Government Departments becoming involved and surprisingly the Royal Signals not having a major role! Specifications were changed and industry, under new procurement rules, was required to shoulder these extra costs which nearly broke Racal twice. GEC supremo Arnold Weinstock would not be drawn in and withdrew at an early stage in a consortium with Thomson-CSF and watched from the sidelines watching the destruction of the export winning UK tactical radio industry, which once boasted major players such as Racal, sold to Thomson-CSF Marconi sold to BAE Systems, MEL, closed and Plessey sold to GEC and later Finmeccanica, reduced to zero!
Companies such as British Aerospace saw the benefits of winning Bowman and its lucrative 25 year contract and bought GEC-Marconi from GEC in 1999 to form BAE Systems.
A key part of GEC-Marconi was Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS) which possessed a great deal of the technology required to bid the Bowman Requirement. Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS) was a major European integrated defence electronics company and an equal shares joint venture between BAE Systems and Finmeccanica until its dissolution on 3 May 2005.
AMS was formed in 1998 by the merger of GEC-Marconi Radar and Defence Systems and Alenia Difesa. Equal shares in the resulting company were then held by Finmeccanica, and GEC-Marconi (later Marconi Electronic Systems (MES)), a division of The General Electric Company (GEC). With the demerger and subsequent sale of its MES division in 1999, GEC’s interest in AMS passed to BAE Systems. In 2001 AMS’ missile systems division was merged with Aerospatiale Matra Missiles and Matra BAe Dynamics to form MBDA.
On 7 October 2003 the UK holding company for AMS changed its registered name from Alenia Marconi Systems Limited to AMS Limited to comply with the agreements reached regarding use of the name ‘Marconi’ following the sale of Marconi Electronic Systems by GEC (later Marconi plc). This name change was reflected in rebranding across the company, although the Italian holding company retained the name Alenia Marconi Systems SpA.
On 28 January 2005 BAE Systems and Finmeccanica announced the intention to dissolve their partnership in the AMS joint venture with AMS’ UK and Italian operations taken over by the respective partners as arranged through the Eurosystems Transaction. On 3 May 2005 the Eurosystems Transaction was finalised:
* The UK operations of AMS (minus air traffic control and communication systems) brought together with the C4ISR division of BAE Systems (minus communication systems) to form the new BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte) division of BAE Systems.
* The Italian operations of AMS (Alenia Marconi Systems SpA) became SELEX Sistemi Integrati which in turn became Selex ES in January 2013.
Insyte, regarded by BAE Systems as the jewel in the crown to launch it into the digital age was closed in 199 with just the rump Cowes-based radar business remaining and the team developing the Falcon Ptarmigan replacement.
Other new kids on the block, mainly US companies, such as ITT Defense, now part of Harris, Harris itself and General Dynamics reaped the rewards of the now £3 billion Bowman contract. Scandals followed with Government and Parliamentary Enquires and the Defence Select Committee asking what had gone wrong in what was regarded as a process to bring the British Army’s communications into the 21st Century. Bowman was designed to enable the Armed Forces to deploy overseas for the new form of Expeditionary Warfare which required communications over longer distances of 40 kilometres, some of it on the move and a Reachback requirement to communicate with coalition commanders at home and abroad, Police and the Emergency Services. We won’t rehearse the whole story as to where we have reached with the sixth iteration of Bowman since then, (Bowman Capability Insertion programme) BCIP 6.
So, was it worth it? Certainly from an industry point of view, where forecasts of exports of many millions were forecast to payback some of the MoD’s money never materialized with the Dutch Marines and Libya being the only two contracts won. From a military point of view it dragged the British Army into the digitised world and after many billions of investment, it has certainly improved the manner by which the Army communicates. But, twenty five years is a long time for technology and wisely in 2014 the MoD decided to draw a line under the BCIP Programme and initiate a whole new system and network infrastructure Land Environment Tactical CIS (LE TacCIS) and the Morpheus Programme under a £4 billion Programme.
Land Environment Tactical CIS (LE TacCIS) and the Morpheus Programme.
What is the Morpheus Project
Morpheus is a £3.6 billion defence project that will deliver the next generation of Tactical Communication and Information Systems (TacCIS) capability. It will address critical system obsolescence and introduce a more agile TacCIS solution (both technical and business). This will enable emergent technology to be rapidly exploited for user benefit, will be more responsive to changes in user need, and will realise efficiencies in the way in which TacCIS capability is acquired and supported.
In November 2014 the UK MoD’s Battlefield Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) delivery team released an acquisition strategy paper outlining the approach for the future procurement of Morpheus. This approach included a 2 part assessment phase (AP):
AP 1: tasked with identifying and characterising a range of viable acquisition options (consisting of a business model, transition plan, and architecture options), based on the principal approaches of ‘Sustain’, ‘Evolve’, ‘Replace’.
AP 2: tasking a delivery partner to undertake a detailed design of the acquisition options proposed during AP 1, with a supporting recommendation to take forward to a development phase.
In September 2015, BATCIS announced an acceleration of the approach in recognition that ‘Replace’ did not represent a viable option and that there was a need to evolve the current system through the support of a transition partner and other suppliers, to deliver an open agile system, termed Evolve to Open (EvO).
The BATCIS Delivery Team (DT) within MOD is responsible for the through life management of Land Environment Tactical CIS (LE TacCIS). This includes the littoral and air components within that environment. The current LE TacCIS capability is predominately delivered by BCIP (Bowman ComBAT (Common Battlefield Application Toolset) Infrastructure and Platform BISA (Battlefield Information Systems Application)), in addition to other tactical communications systems recently delivered through the Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) process.
The MORPHEUS Programme will deliver the next iteration of the LE TacCIS capability, addressing critical system obsolescence and introducing capability improvements to enable better Command and Control to the Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment. These systems are intended to deliver the operational requirements for information superiority over the next 25 years. Its intent is to explore the scope for delivering efficiency and effectiveness benefits through improved programme coherence, systems engineering, exploitation of impending technology ‘shifts’ and optimisation of the supplier base, for example through taking an open systems approach. MORPHEUS will seek to harness civil commercial developments in mobile communication and computing and apply these to the military tactical space.
Engagement of industry assistance System House and a ‘Customer Friend’
The Haddon Cave report after the tragic 2008 Nimrod disaster in Afghanistan outlined key failures in the MoD’s use of industry to manage and support projects. To that end, one of the first tasks of the BATCIS team was to form a support team consisting of a System House and a Customer Friend to manage the engagement of engineers and technicians required. At the same time following ‘lessons learnt’ from Bowman, the MoD decided not to have an industry Prime Contractor but to have a ‘Light Prime’ arrangement.
RfQs were issued for bids and in February 2015 Atkins were chosen for the Customer Friend Role and the NEO Team headed by PA Consulting for the Systems House worth £ 11 million.
The NEO Team
The NEO Team headed by PA Consulting, managing strategy and acquisition, includes CGI, as information specialisation, Roke Manor for tactical radios specialisation and Qinetiq, testing and support. This group brings together world-leading expertise in military and commercial communications and information systems, together with the business insight to develop optimal commercial models to support the programme.
The BATCIS DT engagement of industry assistance (System House) supported the generation and assessment of a range of Physical Architecture Options, against a baseline Logical Architecture – High Level Design Requirement (HLDR) to identify the optimal affordable sub-sets of the HLDR (candidate HLDRs). The main focus for the NEO Team has been to form a key input to the competition to select the MORPHEUS Delivery Partner who will be tasked to develop detailed designs during Assessment Phase 2.
This £11 million contract, concluding in July 2016, covered technology assessment and system architecture design to support the incorporation of innovative technologies throughout the MORPHEUS programme’s life. It also provided advice on the best business and commercial arrangements to facilitate innovation and ensure value for money for the MOD. A significant aspect of the programme covers engagement with industry and academia to capture ideas and maximise opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises and suppliers, who are not traditionally associated with the defence sector.
“We have had a total of 157 people involved in supporting DE&S at Abbey Wood. All the members of the NEO Team are excited about the opportunity to work with the MOD on this key programme. Being impartial and having highly complementary skills, we are committed to identifying technical architectures and commercial business models that will ensure the effective exploitation of innovative technologies throughout the life of the programme.” Tony Reeves said.
Brigadier Richard Spencer, Director of the MOD’s Battlefield and Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) Delivery Team has said, “Awarding this contract allows Defence the opportunity to really understand the options available to future proof the vital tactical communications capability used by our soldiers, sailors and airmen on operations and here in the UK. We will have a detailed understanding of current, near-horizon and emerging information and communications technology and importantly an opportunity to engage with industry to deliver the best kit possible for our troops in the future. It is this quest that drives us and we are excited to embark on this journey with NEO.”
“What were the key tasks for the NEO Team?” The Editor asked.
“One of our key tasks has been to examine how the current Bowman system could be replaced,who should run the Morpheus Programme and what technology should be applied. Do we replace it completely or evolve it incrementally building on the key technology and software developed over 25 years?”
“Our strap line has been the development of a system which will supply Evolutionary Capability and Delivery (ECD) within the budget and time. A Twenty five year timespan as in the Bowman contract does not suit current technology development so we are looking at contract timespans from 12 months for software, 6 to 12 months for Apps and 3 to 5 years for laptops and infrastructure. Key applications being looked by our team of experts with our industry partners have included IT Management, supply of a new Battle Management System (BMS) , delivery of data over a variety of bearers, a new Battlefield CIS programme, development of an Open Architecture software system, Satcom-on-the move, Data collection, collation and delivery, Situational Awareness and Blue Force Tracking, Wi-Fi, 4 and 5G telephones, Apps, hybrid radios, HALE UAVs and balloons and new technologies from the likes of Google and Facebook. We have looked at 6000 different technologies and identified 10 Managed Service Providers who could work with the MoD to manage the Programme. A key requirement is to manage the number of systems required, for instance to slim down the 40,000 laptops required for Bowman to a manageable and useable number. Our experts have accepted meetings from many companies, including small to medium sized businesses. The key here has been to examine all potential options out there, to identify the most operationally effective and cost-effective solutions, and to examine export opportunities.”
“We know there are lots of really exciting technologies, and SMEs, as well as academics, doing exactly the kind of research and innovation this project needs. We also know a lot of them think that these kinds of contracts always go to the same old defence companies. That’s not the case here. We’re really open to innovative, and even unusual, solutions to ensure that the final options are the best possible. One of the keys to the success of Morpheus will be the fleet management and the ability to insert new technologies and systems into the Bowman structures. To that end we have examined the US practice of having a standard size and weight for the radios to enable quick change and insertion.” Tony Reeves said.
“How will the new systems be tested prior to deployment?”
“We have been looking at the US Network Integration Exercise (NIE) model which has a dedicated US Brigade trialing and testing new equipment. The US Army is already looking at having 6% of its comms dedicated to satcom-on-the-move. However, given the smaller number of Brigades in the British Army a programme is being developed to enable the fast refit of Brigades to ensure the Army is up to full strength for urgent deployments.”
General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited Role
“How does GD fit into the picture?”
“We haven’t been given access to the current Bowman IP, so we worked with a clean sheet to develop the architecture and interfaces for Morpheus. GDUK’s main task will be to develop a framework and strategy to facilitate the development of the existing Bowman system from where it is today to the Morpheus deployment. To that end they were awarded a £330 million contract last week”
On April 6th General Dynamics United Kingdom Limited, with its base in Wales, was awarded a £330 million contract from the UK Ministry of Defence to act as its Transition Partner for the new Morpheus capability. In this role GDUK will support the MOD to design and develop the next-generation tactical communication and information system as the next critical phase of the MORPHEUS programme. The system will be used to plan, deploy, manage and monitor communications and information for the Army. It will allow users to integrate new radios, applications and other system components faster and with greater ease.
General Dynamics (UK) will implement a new architectural approach, known as Evolve to Open (EvO), which will evolve the Bowman tactical communication (BCIP 5.6) capability into an open, modular system. The system will connect deployed tactical forces to their commanders, give improved access to powerful operational IT and simplify the user experience. The open system approach allows new technologies to be rapidly integrated to tackle emerging threats and enhance interoperability with allies.
Reflecting the importance of the programme to supporting employment in the UK, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said, “This £330m contact for the next generation of battlefield communications, supporting 250 high skilled jobs, underlines the importance of Wales to our Armed Forces. Backed by a rising defence budget, last year MOD spent £870m with Welsh businesses helping to build a stronger economy and keep Britain safe.”
Brigadier Richard Spencer, Head of the MoD’s Battlefield and Tactical Communications and Information System Delivery Team said recently, “The Transition Partner contract is just the first of many procurement projects to deliver the MORPHEUS Evolve to Open baseline over the next few years. This first contract opens the door for numerous industry opportunities to contribute to the next generation of battlefield communications.”
Chief Operating Officer of General Dynamics UK, Steve Rowbotham, commented, “Having delivered and supported the Bowman tactical communication and information system for the past 15 years from our site in South Wales, this contract marks the next chapter in our history. We are delighted that we will continue to develop and grow our existing employee skills base, whilst providing the UK Armed Forces with a leading edge battlefield communication system.”
The contract creates 125 new jobs as well as sustaining the jobs of 125 highly-skilled engineers at General Dynamics UK’s headquarters in Oakdale, South Wales. The EvO contract is the first to be awarded for the MORPHEUS programme, which will give UK Armed Forces across all three services modernised command and control networks using the latest technology.
General Dynamics UK opened its first facility in South Wales in 2001, after winning the contract to deliver the Bowman tactical communications system programme. Since then, the business has continued to expand and invest in the area, and now has three facilities in Oakdale and Merthyr Tydfil, which is home to the newly-opened Armoured Fighting Vehicle Assembly, Integration and Testing facility.
“On conclusion of your contract what do you see as the future role for the NEO Team?”
“Our initial contract was centred on Morpheus, the tactical system. We have continued to apply the lessons learnt on Morpheus to other areas of LE TacCIS capability such as TRINITY Falcon Replacement Programme, Future Beyond Line of Sight (FBLOS), the Skynet 5 Replacement Programme and a New Style of IT Deployed (NSOITD) for Headquarters, which works alongside the DFTS programme being run by Fujitsu and the latest iteration of the HP DII Programme.”
Certainly, the Editor left with the feeling that the NEO Team have not only examined the mistakes made in the development and deployment of Bowman which has filled headlines for many years but also that they have a strong grasp on the technology required for the Armed Forces’ communications needs for the next 30 years.