ATAK being used on mobile phone by British soldier
Technology

Multi-Million Pound Boost For Digital Battlefield Apps

The technology is expected to be in use on operations across the globe by the end of the year.

ATAK being used on mobile phone by British soldier

British personnel tested battlefield communication technology known as the Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool last year (Picture: Crown Copyright/Cpl Tom Evans).

A £30 million pound investment has been confirmed to fund the development of digital apps for the battlefield.

The money will be used to fast-track agile software development technology, to support military forces on operations across the globe.

The funding, confirmed by the Defence Secretary, follows a commitment to spend £66 million on mini drones, remote control armoured vehicles and the ability to send in pre-programmed support vehicles to the front line.

The money comes from the Transformation Fund, which was confirmed last year, and is designed to fast-track military robotic projects on to the battlefield.

The aim is for personnel on the ground to be able to have software that can handle mission information and provide tools to support decision making and command and control.

Other technology the military has recently explored includes remote-controlled armoured vehicles that are completely unmanned.

It follows the testing last year of a mobile app which allows military commanders to communicate on the battlefield.

Known as the Dismounted Situational Awareness Tool, it uses phones loaded with programmes including the mission, intelligence and mapping app called Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK).

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "From major natural disasters to the frontline on the battlefield, our Armed Forces are quick to react and even quicker to adapt.

"This technology matches that agility by enabling the creation of specialist digital applications that are tailored, secure and responsive. 

“By deploying this technology into the hands of our military, from sailors serving in the Caribbean, to pilots working in the Middle East, we will ensure we have a fighting force fit for the future, equipped with state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips."

The approach is focused around applications being created based upon a commander's requirements, with the ability for technology to be launched within days.

Subsequent updates would then be made to the app depending on the mission's needs.

The capability, dubbed PREDA (Platform for Rapid Exploitation of Digital Applications) is similar to technology being introduced by the United States Air Force (USAF) and US Marine Corps, where software is put in the hands of those on the ground.

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

The USAF has already delivered 18 tailored applications to support planning, command and control functions at its Air Operations Centers.

Further applications are being explored in budgeting and acquisition, cyber defence and logistics.

The approach is initially expected to provide tools to support decision making and command and control, however, the initiative could be rolled out to other disciplines, such as cyber defence, logistics and medical support.

The technology is expected to be in use on operations across the globe by the end of the year.