British Army Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, AWE 18 Autonomous Warrior Land (Crown Copyright, 2018) [880]

Autonomous Warriors Showcased at British Army’s AWE 18

Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) Lead Battlefield Innovation at Army Warfighting Experiment

The Army Warfighting Experiment for 2018 is named Exercise Autonomous Warrior (Land). The exercise will see four weeks of combat trials, experimentation and simulation with prototype unmanned aerial, unmanned ground vehicles and supporting software aimed at reducing the danger to troops during combat.

To match the changing character of conflict, it is vital that the British Army understands how Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) can be used to enhance and shape future capability. The technical expertise of industry will be given the ultimate testing ground of Salisbury Plain and a British Army Battlegroup to enable innovation, foster collaboration and maintain warfighting edge.

Leading industrial partners in Robotic and Autonomous Systems (RAS) have been invited by the British Army to put their equipment in the hands of soldiers. Working together, the systems will be trialled, tweaked and trialled again as the exercise moves toward a final Battlegroup level experiment where the best ideas and products will be tested in the toughest of simulated combat environments.

Over 50 robotic, autonomous and supporting systems have made it through the selection process to be exercised on Autonomous Warrior. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Unmanned Ground Vehicles will be trialled to measure how they can support surveillance, resupply, command and mobility.

A war-fighting edge both now and in the future.

Lt Col. Nick Searle, CO of the Infantry Trials Development Unit, said via an MOD video, “The most important thing is about colloboration with industry, academia and some of our scientists to see if we can innovate together and try and develop robots and autonomous systems that provide us a war-fighting edge both now and in the future.

AWE18 Equipment

The Army Warfighting Experiment 2018 programme received 122 initial product submissions. Approximately 50 products have been selected for the exercise to be put in the hands of soldiers.

The equipment being experimented throughout Autonomous Warrior aims to enhance:

Situational Awareness and Decision Support
Movement and Manoeuvre
Force Protection

General Dynamics UK brought along their Hawk concept demonstrator. Based on the current British Army Foxhound, the Hawk is the company’s proposal for the UK’s hotspot requirement for highly mobile tactical communications. Hawk provides a local 4G network, with on-the-move omni-directional reach in combination with VHF, HF, Link 16, and UHF. Link 16 would allow soldiers to communicate directly with NATO aircraft over the current Bowman system.

Horiba Mira demonstrated their unnmanned tracked loader. The UGV is designed for combat engineering and other hazardous tasks to be undertaken remotely.

Also on display was QinetiQ‘s Titan Strike unmanned vehicle. The diesel-electric hybrid tracked vehicle can move a remotely fired weapon system across rough terrain at up to 15 mph. Titan Strike had be fitted with a variety of current British Arms weapons, such as the general purpose machinegun seen at AWE 18.

AWE18 Collaboration

Autonomous Warrior will provide an opportunity for forces to train, operate and innovate together, adapting the tactics and the technology through realistic missions. An ongoing relationship with the US ensures we welcome the US Army to partake in the exercise. The forces involved include:

Royal Tank Regiment Battlegroup Headquarters (BGHQ)
3rd Battalion, The Rifles (3 RIFLES)
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
32nd Regiment Royal Artillery
33 Engineer Regiment (EOD&S)
42 Commando
Force elements from the RAF (RAF Regiment)
US Army Experimental Force Platoon (1-29 Infantry)

First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1 RRF), experimented with robotic systems in an urban combat setting, using them to clear buildings, reducing the risks to soldiers.

AWE18 Capability

The data collected during this experiment will be used to test hypotheses and to report near and longer term viability of candidate concepts and the utility of the individual equipment. Throughout the exercise, enhancing capability will be at the forefront of all efforts. Specifically how Robotic and Autonomous Systems could:

Enable effective break into urban operations
Support wide area surveillance and targeting
Enable dispersed forces through enhanced Situational Awareness
Reduce own force vulnerability to UAS targeting
Improve tempo by enhancing mobility and counter mobility
Enable agile Command and Control of dispersed forces
Improve the effectiveness of Combat Service Support

The British Army’s Chief of the General Staff was present, as was Defence Minister Stuart Andrew.

Brigadier Chris MacGregor, Assistant Head of British Army Media and Communications, said via Twitter, “The best ideas often come from those closest to the challenge. The #BritishArmy recognise talent, experience and potential in every team member and we take thinking about the future seriously.”

The exercise will run from 12 November to 12 December 2018. The exercise will be conducted on Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA), Wiltshire, UK

The Army’s Trials and Development Units have worked with Army Headquarters, industry, academia, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to develop the experiment.

Additional support to the experiment has been provided by QinetiQ through the MOD Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA).

Various sources.

Image: a soldier from the British Army’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at AWE 18, Autonomous Warrior Land (Crown Copyright, 2018).