Autonomising the battlefield: the next big step in military technological advancements

Autonomising the battlefield: the next big step in military technological advancements

Clausewitz wrote that: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” The next generation of military technology centres on clearing the fog of cognitive burden on the battlefield. Information management on the battlefield enabled through autonomy and automation are gaining increasing attention and importance. How information is analysed and decisions are made is critical to military success.

Clausewitz wrote that: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.” The next generation of military technology centres on clearing the fog of cognitive burden on the battlefield. Information management on the battlefield enabled through autonomy and automation are gaining increasing attention and importance. How information is analysed and decisions are made is critical to military success.

Babcock Australasia is focused on the evolution of military autonomy in all forms and for all military platforms, as part of its solution for the Land125 Phase 4 Integrated Soldier System program.

Robotic and Autonomous Platforms including un-crewed ground and aerial systems and self-learning machines will form a critical component of the future Integrated Soldier System, and this autonomous capability can be managed programmatically as a thread through a number of other Land projects.

Autonomy of information management is key to ensuring information can be processed on the battlefield, in real time, and supplied to the people who require it. 

Babcock’s Head of Technology and Engineering Capability, Glenn Logan, said while having vast amounts of information available benefited military operations, how that information was accessed and used is where the battle will be won.

“Our business at Babcock is to mature autonomy so that military systems can aggregate information in real time and distribute that to the right people so they can make the most informed strategic and tactical decisions possible,” Logan said.

“Increasingly, one of the major problems on the contemporary battlefield is information overload; there is simply too much information that moves too quickly for a single soldier, or an entire unit to accurately digest, analyse, and use as a basis for effective decision-making. 

“Autonomy is the key to solving this. We need new ways to aggregate and analyse this information, so it is fit-for-military-service.”  

Infantry Section member conducting Human-Machine bounding activities with Robotic and Autonomous Platform during filming of Babcock’s engineering video for L125-4, Integrated Soldier Systems.


With over 20 years working across Navy, Airforce and Army in Australia and the UK with autonomous vehicles and platforms, Logan conceptualises the soldier as part of an integrated battlefield management system.

“Autonomising information management on the battlefield will give the individual soldier and other decision-makers power by providing a complete picture of what’s happening around them in real time. It also provides decision making options—analysing and using the information being produced by integrating sensor systems including vehicles, people-on-the-ground, aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs),” Logan said. 

“Implementing autonomy will help prevent information overload, with the soldier receiving only the information that is pertinent to them, at a specific point in time.

“The information received will be different to the unit command, who have different needs to headquarters, which again reviews a different level of data. 

“This autonomous process essentially focuses people to address their remit and not be caught in the fog of other irrelevant information—making the process more effective and efficient.

“If not done properly, information could be omitted, or our military personnel could still suffer cognitive burden with too much information—it is a crucial balancing act to optimise military operations on the battlefield. We need to work with Army to get this balance right,” he said.

Another part of autonomising the battlefield is using technology around communication security—such as robust ant-jamming, encryption and other advancements in communications technologies. An example of this is low-power mesh-type networks. 

Logan still sees human intervention as important to defining the rules in which the technology operates.

“People need to be part of the decision-making process. Security of the systems and embedding the rules of engagement within the autonomous systems are key to the ethical and strategic success of the technology,” Logan said. 

“As technological advancements continue to play an ever-increasing role in military operations, the ethics involved in setting up the engagement parameters is a defence industry-wide consideration, and it is an important one. 

Logan identified data and information management systems as a critical military focus for the next five years.

“Information systems and technology will need to be advanced with quantum computing technologies and artificial intelligence. These are two areas where we will see significant change. 

“The future will look to combat systems, sensor systems, weapon systems, and shipbuilding using these advanced quantum technologies and artificial intelligence.

“To deliver these advancements, Babcock continues to commit to building capabilities in engineering skills and investing in these technology areas. We have a strong vision and framework to gather engineering and technical capabilities and foster mature autonomy for the ADF,” Logan said.

END



About Glenn Logan, Head of Technology and Engineering Capability

Glenn Logan commenced his career as an apprentice in the Navy. He left the Navy as a Weapons Electrical Engineering Officer, moving to BAE Systems where he worked across a number of weapons systems including the NULKA Decoy System—Australia’s most successful weapons system export currently used on every US and Australian warships. Glenn then worked on the Euro Fighter Project in the UK, which introduced him to aircraft work. This continued back in Australia developing Autonomous Flight Control Systems on a number of BAE Systems UAV and UGV platforms culminating with collaborating with Boeing Defence and delivering the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat flight control system for the RAAF. Glenn also led the establishment of the initiative with the Australian Army to turn existing M113 Infantry Fighting Vehicles into Autonomous Armoured Vehicles. He is currently Head of Technology & Engineering Capability with Babcock Australasia.

About Babcock 

Babcock Australasia is a Defence, Aviation and Critical Services company trusted to deliver technical support services for customers, ranging from fleet and asset management, sustainment, and technical training, to life-saving helicopter emergency medical services.  

A subsidiary of Babcock International Group, we are proud to help keep our nation secure, our communities safe and the country moving, using Babcock’s specialist skills and knowledge to facilitate our client’s operational requirements. 

A global solution being delivered locally. 

www.babcock.com.au

 

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