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Technology is changing the face of Defence dramatically and is now the key factor in delivering enhanced military capability. The Gulf War reflects this perfectly, with the co-ordination of all the forces; land, sea and air. This could only be achieved via the use of advanced information and communication systems, and it was this technical superiority that enabled the speed of advance through Iraq.

Central to the MOD’s future strategy is the concept of Network Enabled Capability (NEC). NEC will allow the military to deliver controlled and precise effects rapidly and reliably through linking, sensors, decision-makers and weapon systems, so that information can be translated into synchronised military effect at optimum tempo.

This article will explore the opportunities being opened up by technology in Defence. Its important to note that all the technology included does exist today, however, the setting is in the future – but only just!

The future soldier

The lone soldier is no longer an exposed, vulnerable individual, thanks to technological advancement. Instead, they are now part of an integrated facility supported by sensors, UAVs, information and effects systems. A soldier has become a network-connected fighting system via a drop-down eyepiece on the helmet, which provides location information from a GPS system. It also gives access to computer-generated displays showing digital maps, intelligence information, troop locations, and imagery fed from his weapon-mounted Thermal Imaging Sight.

Visual capability is dramatically enhanced by technology that has been successful in the commercial sector. Digital imaging technologies from the camera and mobile telephony markets enable image capture of the potential target and transfer to a handheld device, the size of a PDA. GPS technology provides the soldier with accurate location information, the ability to submit an information rich report and, when necessary, supplement the information with an image of the potential target. Bandwidth will continue to be constrained but compression algorithms, the BOWMAN system and its successors, and satellite channels will allow imagery to be exploited within the battlefield.

Information exploitation

Information is an essential tool, which needs to be passed back up the chain of command. This data must be analysed, and collated by the commander in order for decisions to be made, and further actions to be decided and implemented. Next generation fire control, and effects management systems will transform capability, and manage all aspects of integration and synchronisation of joint effects available to the commander.

Broader aspects of future conflict will also need to be considered, and the new effects management systems will have direct access into joint collection and effects assets, including RN, RAF, NATO and other collaborating forces. As a result, the available options will be much greater than before and strategic assets can be tasked in the time frame previously reserved for tactical assets.

Getting the Big Picture

Satellites can provide imagery, including radar imagery that is not obscured by weather or sandstorms, weather information as well as extended communications channels. But airborne assets, such as ASTOR, will provide all weather imagery and an increasing number of UAVs will be available for verifying and tracking the target.

UAVs will play a major role in the increasingly dynamic battle control that will evolve in the 21st century. In Iraq, they were employed for battlefield damage assessment (BDA), targeting and surveillance missions, particularly in high-threat airspace. US forces used Hunter and Predator UAVs to provide real-time imagery throughout the operation and UK forces employed PHOENIX very successfully in a similar role.

The future soldier will also be able to extend the reach of

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