Interoperability is increasingly central to the modernisation and futureproofing of the UK military as well as those of our allies. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine emphasises that future conflicts are unlikely to be fought in isolation by individual militaries and instead will be contested between coalitions that require fast, effective and reliable collaboration. Improving the real-time ability to gather, share and use information and data from battlefield to base and beyond is vital to success.
Interoperability is growing amongst Five Eyes, NATO and others, particularly in the air and maritime domains. Interoperability in the land domain is equally important – and is improving rapidly – but there is more that can be done.
Ukraine’s valiant response to Russia’s war has been supported by collective efforts from NATO members and others. It has highlighted that combined-joint forces and multi-domain capabilities go hand-in-hand. Cross domain threats have increased, meaning future networks and systems must adapt to meet the evolving nature of hybrid warfare, including electronic, unmanned and autonomous capabilities.
The remarkable precision and effectiveness of Ukraine’s forces shows that advanced communications technologies are crucial to enable informed decisions and rapid response efforts. Networks have been targeted continually but remained functional, proving that resilience in the face of disruption is essential.
The UK is making progress on improving its Command-and-Control (C2) capabilities but has potential to move faster and go deeper. Strengthening interoperability and resilience will directly benefit the UK’s effectiveness with NATO members, bringing enhanced capability, resource utilisation and burden sharing in coalition operations.
L3Harris has been examining enhanced networking and passage of sensor information through the Everest experiment – a first-of-its-kind, multi-day field exploration of C2 capabilities at the Defence BattleLab in Dorset. Held in partnership with Leonardo DRS, Systematic, NSSLGlobal and other industry partners, Everest is the most in-depth exploration of fieldable C2 capabilities in the UK this year. UK Ministry of Defence attended the experiment’s demonstration days in force with more than 250 visitors over the two days.
As the Ministry of Defence works to upgrade its capabilities through LETacCIS and the Morpheus programme, the technologies showcased in Everest offer an opportunity to rapidly meet numerous requirements. They are readily accessible, available now and can be effortlessly integrated with existing systems.
The experiment successfully demonstrated the potential benefits of the latest pioneering C2 technologies. More so, it confirmed several expectations on how the next generation of technologies can serve operational units and the military more broadly. Integrating the different elements into a cohesive network that enables seamless information to pass from individual soldiers and sensors back to commanders offers the UK a significant capability boost.
First, Everest reinforced how land operations become more effective with access to resilient, reliable connectivity. During the experiment, we showed how the location of an individual soldier now can be shared seamlessly in a secure manner faster than ever before. This is critical on deployment. When Allied dispositions are combined with sensor feeds and other key information – then rapidly shared with commanders – combat effectiveness significantly increases.
Second, we saw how different waveforms, as well as via different communications means, adds to communications resilience. The system also enables new concepts of operation, such as dispersed headquarters, increasing survivability – notably, the U.S. Army has also expressed interest in this capability.
It is this cutting-edge technology used in practical application that enables the connection of users, sensors and information to enable rapid decision making and effective C2.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the response by NATO and other partners has reinforced that the future of combat will depend upon effective, integrated networks. They will be at the heart of offensive and defensive operations on land, in the air and through other domains. The UK has a unique opening to incorporate technologies that will be a step-change in capabilities, can be acquired now and are designed for long-term effectiveness. Everest shows the benefits to seizing the opportunity.