British Army Officer: Military Mobile App 'A Game Changer'

Major Ben Parkyn: 'This app allows us to operate quicker'. (Pictures: Corporal Tom Evans/Crown Copyright).

New technology that allows military commanders to communicate through a mobile phone app has been hailed a "game changer" by a senior British Army officer.

The Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool has been tested, ahead of any potential wider pre-trials, by 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards (QDG), the Welsh Cavalry, based in Poland.

Major Ben Parkyn, the officer commanding C Squadron of 1st The QDG, has been using the technology during their deployment as part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence (ePF) and are the first in the British Army to do so.

"It is going to be a game changer," the 37-year-old told Press Association.

"I think we will never get away from maps, and having to look people in the eye to understand intent, but the speed at which we can do that now is greatly enhanced."

Maj Parkyn said the mobile phones they have used are loaded with a series of programmes including the mission, intelligence and mapping app called Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK).

ATAK screenshot
ATAK was designed for use on the Android and Windows operating systems. (Picture: Air Force Research Laboratory).

The device is mounted to each commander using a colour-appropriate contraption that flips down to reveal the screen as and when required.

When the app and systems are fired up, it allows the user to share and post information, including their location, along with images, which can then be viewed by all those using it.

"If you see a minefield, or an IED, or a pocket of enemy, you can not only drop that on, you can take a photo of it," Maj Parkyn said.

"You could also then set a proximity alarm - so if you get within 500 metres of something or a weapons range, or whatever it was, then it would ping on your system."

British personnel have been among those taking part in a large NATO exercise in Poland.

Maj Parkyn said the technology has allowed the 1st QDG, which is a light cavalry regiment that specialises in reconnaissance, to be agile and light.

The 1st QDG used the technology during the recent US-led Exercise Sabre Strike involving 18,000 troops and 19 countries across the region - which ended last week.

He described it as a long-awaited "common system" that has allowed the two countries to see each other, as well as providing the ability to send information and messages at speed, including to British Army headquarters.

Maj Parkyn said: "The Americans we were testing with did not have the full-fat version, the better version and the updated kit, and they were looking at ours with envy - which, I can tell you, does not happen very often."

The Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool is a US government-produced piece of equipment, the Ministry of Defence said.

US marine using ATAK software
ATAK technology was developed by the US military in 2010. (Picture: US Deptartment of Defense).

UK testing comes under the Land Environment Tactical Communications Information System programme, which is leading a series of change projects to deliver modernised communications for deployments.

Still in the development phase, Maj Parkyn said there have been tweaks to the system and that as new versions are released, they keep getting better.

With soldiers using it encouraged to provide feedback, Maj Parkyn said this is taken into account as the next version is developed, making the soldiers feel "bought into the project".

He also highlighted how the younger personnel quickly got to grips with the technology and made it their own. Maj Parkyn added:

"They were teaching the teachers within 24 hours...they were sending overlays and mission packages and all sorts of clever wizardry stuff."

A British Army spokesman confirmed 1st The QDG were equipped with the "battlespace management application" to allow improved communication between the US and UK.

"We are constantly testing and evaluating the latest cutting-edge equipment on the market and continue to work with our allies to assess innovative technology that will ensure our forces remain prepared for every eventuality in the field," he added.

Light Dragoons Poland
British forces have been deployed to Poland as part of NATO's ePF. (Picture: MoD).

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