Army cites importance of robotics and autonomous vehicles on ‘battlefield of tomorrow’

Future Solider initiative aims to drive innovation

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The British Army has outlined its intent to make greater use of robotics and autonomous vehicles – working in combination with human soldiers – to ensure it is equipped for the “battlefield of tomorrow”.

According to the Ministry of Defence, over the next few years the armed forces will increasingly deploy “human-machine teams”, in which soldiers are paired with automated technologies and artificial intelligence tools.

Examples cited include “uncrewed, computer-driven vehicles”, which the MoD said could play a valuable role in combat zones to “provide situational awareness or deliver aid to remote regions”. 

“They will also be able to rapidly deploy counter-drone capabilities to survey areas of land and use a wide range of sensors and effectors that can see, shift or shoot across the whole battlefield,” the ministry added.

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The Army is currently rolling out its Future Soldier initiative, through which it aims to evolve and adapt to what it terms “the grey zone”, in which much international conflict now takes place.

“This is where state and non-state actors operate against the UK without a full declaration of war, and so the line between war or peace becomes more blurred,” it said.

As part of the Future Soldier programme, it will also map out strategies and priorities for the use of technology. This will include the soon-to-be-published “approach to electrification”, a 15-year plan to increase use of battery-powered, electric, and hybrid vehicles.

These can provide “significant advances in stealth mode capabilities with reduced thermal and noise signature”, the MoD said.

A total of £10m has already been spent on equipping the Army’s Man SV, Jackal, and Foxhound fleet of vehicles with “hybrid electric drives”.

The performance of these drives is currently being assessed, as are options for recharging uncrewed vehicles.

Colonel Simon Ridgway, assistant head of plans for round manoeuvre capability, said: “[The] approach to electrification will set out how the Army intends to take advantage of the opportunities provided by sustainable technology for land capabilities. It will ensure the Army’s electrical infrastructure is ready to meet the electrical demand required on the battlefield of the future. Delivering effect needs the right power, in the right place, at the right time and using hybrid vehicles will make it easier to get the power to where it needs to be.”

Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mark Carleton-Smith added: “The future British Army will draw on innovation, cutting-edge technology and play its part in Defence’s ambition to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Our Future Soldier initiative will see more versatile and increasingly deployable land forces in the face of evolving threats.”


Sam Trendall

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