U.K. LAND COMMUNICATIONS – JOINING THE DOTS
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
In this special supplement we cover various aspects of the burgeoning demands that overseas military operations put on our Armed Forces to provide real-time C4I technology. It outlines the race by the MoD to ensure this connectivity and support at the same time as trying to draw a line in the sand to give the Armed Forces the technology they need at an affordable price whilst keeping pace with the huge technological developments in the civil marketplace.
Both the U.S. and the U.K. Armed Forces have embarked on the implementation and deployment of complex communications systems to enable Network Centric Warfare to speed up the delivery and dissemination of information to the troops at the front line. Earlier this year, we discussed the U.S. Programs and the policies being developed by Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the U.S. Army’s head of CECOM (See: COMMON STANDARDS – THE MESSAGE FROM CECOM, By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE, BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.8 ISSUE 41, 13 October 2006).
We will discuss the methods being deployed by the MoD to knit together the various high-technology communications systems now being rolled out by the British Armed Forces. These include BOWMAN, Reacher/Skynet 5, Cormorant, Falcon and DII. The MoD told BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold at the opening of the Skynet 5 facility in Wiltshire last year that, all being well, the U.K. would be ahead of the U.S. in the deployment of a full network enabled solution; only time will tell.
In our Paris issue we examined battlefield UAVs which provide vital data links for C4I systems, in this supplement, we examine a number of key C4I systems and their continuing development.
Quite clearly Bowman is one of the most complex military communications system projects in the world. Its deployment required a complete mind change in terms of training, a point remarked on by Major General Andrew Cumming who, when he was in charge of Army Training remarked to me that he couldn’t train his troops to use Bowman until the required doctrine was written! As no one had used Bowman in the field, it was an uphill task to write the required training doctrine from a blank sheet of paper.
The project also required that some 13,000 vehicles of varying age and quality be refitted with Bowman equipment under the Installation Design & Certification (ID&C) contract, a huge task given the varied locations of the vehicles in the UK, Germany, Cyprus, BATUS, and Brunei and the differing build standard. Many of these vehicles could not be delivered to GDUK’s Ashchurch facility as planned as they were being used on operations or training, thus causing conversion delays.
The Bowman Requirement was hatched as a Clansman Radio Replacement Project in the 1970s under a Fixed Price Requirement, it became without any large increase in budget, the ‘Digitization of the British Army,’ a process which took until 2003 to achieve, during which there were many casualties and bruised egos.
There are numerous tales of ‘The Curse of Bowman,’ and many experiences in the grappling of this project by Senior Officers and Civil Servants, many of whom had no in-depth knowledge of the Requirement and indeed the software required. One source told BATTLESPACE that there were numerous MoD meetings, in the late nineties about Bowman where senior officials assured the Project Team that ‘all was well’ and no one blew the whistle on the impending collapse. Mainly because no one knew why it was not working!
The other problem, at that time, was that, unlike the U.S., the contractor (Archer), and the customer, the MoD, were at odds from the start, blaming each other for mistakes. In the U.S., as can be seen at AUSA Press Conferences, the User and the Contractor sit at the same table and discuss the Project in question and the way forward to fix any problems arising. The ‘blame culture’ of the U.K. seen througho