DEVELOPMENTS IN BATTLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR DISMOUNTED LAND AND MARITIME OPERATIONS
By Steve Northam, Sales & Marketing Director, Cobham Defence Communications
Despite the dramatic improvement in battlefield technology seen over recent years, the average infantryman today still remains too isolated from the developing electronic command and control networks that have been implemented by most major land forces to some degree. Too often even today, the last link in the C2 chain depends upon voice or hand signals, with implications both for mission effectiveness and survivability.
No-one can ignore the major advances have been made in weaponry, target acquisition, sighting systems and ballistic protection. Certainly, the introduction of short range radios for individual soldiers has improved communications to a significant degree, but even this is still usually limited to voice comms and therefore is frequently less than ideal under combat conditions. Until he becomes a fully integrated node within the tactical network, the individual soldier will not have the protection afforded by a clear, frequently updated and accurate blue force picture. Blue on blue incidents are still reported with disheartening regularity. He will also lack access to the best available Situational Awareness and navigation information, and will still need to rely on hand and verbal signals for important alerts and warnings.
Cobham Defence Communications have recently introduced a suite of products with major implications for the advancement of soldier modernization, concentrating on all aspects of C4I and are currently active in several such programs throughout the world.
Integrated Digital Soldier System (IDSS)
Cobham’s impressive capability in the Soldier Systems & Battle Management domain stems from a long history as the world leader in vehicle based intercom systems for voice and data, and also from the development of Combat Management Systems (CMS) known as WaveHawk, and BattleHawk. WaveHawk was the first implementation of the Cobham CMS, and as the name would suggest was directed at Naval Operations. WaveHawk is now the core CMS around which Cobham’s Marine Interdiction Operations System (MIOS) is based. BattleHawk was developed more recently with the addition of impressive capabilities such as 3D terrain analysis.
In developing the IDSS, Cobham has aimed to transfer the relevant key features and aspects of vehicle-based communications & Battle Management Systems to the troops conducting dismounted close combat. Of course, any successful dismounted C2 or Battle Management System has to be lightweight, easy to use and offer relevant data to the user. Experience shows that If a system of this type does not offer the soldier a perceived benefit in terms of his own effectiveness or survivability, it is likely to get left behind, and replaced by additional water, rations or ammunition. For this reason, Cobham’s IDSS has been designed from scratch with size, weight and power (frequently known as the SWAP factor) in mind. The SDT is a purpose designed & built unit and not simply a repackaged PDA or mobile phone.
Cobham also quickly recognised that the amount of data required by the user, and his/her ability to absorb and process this data, will increase significantly with the command level of the user. As a result, Cobham designed the IDSS to allow a high level of user/commander configuration to limit access to certain features and to eliminate certain layers of information to provide as simple a picture as possible whist remaining appropriate and useful to the user. Display and Processing hardware is also configurable depending upon mission or user profiles, from large scale displays for collaborative planning and briefing, through vehicle mounted systems, down to the smallest and lightest version which consists of an enhanced Radio Interface Module (RIM) providing a basic situational awareness capability via audio prompts and aler