NEWS FROM DSEI: UK Army Initiates New Push for Closer Industry Collaboration
Photo: Ministry of Defence
LONDON — The British army is working on ways to better connect with the defense industry as it looks for new, cutting edge technology, officials said Sept. 12.
In pursuit of that vision, the service published an Army industrial engagement framework, titled “Advantage Through Industry,” on Sept. 5, said Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith, chief of the general staff.
The framework “describes an ever-closer collaboration with international partners, helping to drive interoperability, economies of scale and to generate export opportunities,” Carleton-Smith said during remarks at the Defence and Security Equipment International conference. “Importantly, it describes the capability, challenges and hurdles that the army is trying to overcome and the precise areas where through research and experimentation we're seeking fresh advantage.”
According to the framework document, the U.K. army is planning new ways to engage with a variety of industry players, including small- and medium-sized enterprises and nontraditional suppliers.
“The Army will also seek opportunities for agile acquisition and procurement, pulling concepts rapidly through to delivery using increased experimentation and promoting coherence across defense,” the document said.
The Army plans to also be mindful of the exportability of military products.
“Through our acquisition and experimentation, supplier innovation will be promoted; and the local nature of supply chains will be encouraged within acquisition to support regional prosperity,” the document said.
Five force design principles for industry to adopt include the need for agility, adaptability, resilience, international-by-design and affordability, according to the framework.
Maj. Gen. Jeremy Bennett, the U.K. army’s director of capability, said the new plan was produced to meet both the army and industry’s desire to mature land systems more rapidly and effectively throughout the supply chain and to align investments to meet future capability needs.
“What you, our partners in industry, seek from the army is a clear articulation of what we, your customer, want for our capability,” he said. “This engagement framework provides the mechanisms by which a closer working relationship can be fostered.”
The document also contains several pledges from the army to industry to identify integration opportunities through key engagements events, he said.
“These articulations of land capability requirements offer a swim lane to your research and development without being overly prescriptive,” he said. "Indeed, the whole basis of the approach depends upon the development of creative, innovative solutions to meet the twin challenges of rapidly advancing technology and an involving threat dynamic.”
Other documents recently released by the Ministry of Defence — such as the defense technology framework and defense innovation priorities — describe the “what” and “why" regarding the capabilities the military needs to acquire, Bennett said.
However, “the army industrial engagement framework describes the ‘how’ for the army and for the land environment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is pursuing what it calls “prototype warfare,” which encourages and empowers commanders to take a calculated risk with new equipment that may have a higher chance for failure, Carleton-Smith said.
Fundamentally, the effort is meant “to explore the catalytic ideas that will outpace our adversaries, and it's an opportunity-led approach designed to secure competitive advantage via trial and error and adaptation,” he said.
The nation has already taken steps forward with prototyping, including last year’s Autonomous Warrior event which put cutting edge robotic and autonomous systems provided by industry into the hands of soldiers at Salisbury Plain Army Training Estate in Wilshire.
“It has inspired close to £200 million pounds worth of investments and contracts,” he said.
Bennett noted that this year, Autonomous Warrior will focus on human-machine collaboration and the 2020 iteration will be geared toward agile command-and-control.