Army Technology Exercise A 'Radical New Approach'

UK troops will test out technology including enhanced surveillance drones and unmanned vehicles.

A new Army exercise involving drones, robots and unmanned vehicles represents a "radical new approach" to obtaining an advantage on the battlefield.

Defence minister Mark Lancaster MP was speaking as he officially launched Autonomous Warrior - an exercise where more than 70 types of technology will be tested on for a month on Salisbury Plain in November.

Mr Lancaster went on to say British troops must be ready to respond at very short notice and in a wide variety of contexts.


Autonomous warrior
Autonomous warrior (Picture: Ministry of Defence).

He told the Land Warfare Conference in central London: "To suggest that the threat we face now is the same we faced during the Cold War would not only be irresponsible, but dangerous.

"Back then things were more straightforward, ideological divides were clearer, and what constituted war and peace was self-evident.

"But national security in the 21st century does not fit comfortably into those traditional boxes.

"It is not just the range of dangers we are facing, but breaking down the traditional barriers, physical and virtual.

"Our adversaries recognise this, and they are adapting."

He went on to say: "We must be ready to respond at very short notice and in a wide variety of contexts, but of course Russia is not our only threat.

"We face a multitude of other challenges - hostile states, global extremist organisations, the rise of nationalism, political fragmentation, organised crime, terrorism."

During Exercise Autonomous Warrior, a battlegroup from 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade will provide troops, and execute command and control.

The exercise will allow troops to test and evaluate the effectiveness of a range of robotic and autonomous systems on the battlefield, alongside Royal Marines, the RAF and the US Army.

Mr Lancaster said: "The Army will be putting cutting-edge proposals from the industry through their paces - over 70 new systems from 45 commercial partners.

"Groundbreaking innovations in AI, unmanned autonomous vehicles, force protection and situational awareness will be tested to the limits in the toughest simulated operational environments."

One of the key areas the experiment will test is the last mile resupply - the dangerous final combat zone approach which is crucial to ensuring soldiers have food, fuel and ammunition to keep them alive.

Autonomous warrior
The land-based exercise will on from ‘Unmanned Warrior’. (Picture: MoD).

During his speech that will close the conference, Chief of the General Staff (CGS) General Mark Carleton-Smith is expected to describe how "the nature of warfare is broadening beyond the traditional physical domains", adding that the modern battlefield requires non-traditional skills to ensure the British forces remain world leaders.

He will say: "We need a more proactive, threat-based approach to our capability planning, including placing some big bets on those technologies that we judge may offer exponential advantage.

“Given the pace of the race, to fall behind today is to cede an almost unquantifiable advantage from which it might be impossible to recover.”

Yesterday, the CGS raised questions over whether technology might overtake terrain in warfare.

As well as testing vehicles during the last mile, Autonomous Warrior also aims to develop capabilities in surveillance to improve long-range and precision targeting by personnel.

The exercise is the result of collaboration between the Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, US Army, Ministry of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, plus others.