DSEI NEWS: British Army Establishing New UAS Unit

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Lockheed Martin photo

LONDON — The war in Ukraine has showcased the important role unmanned aircraft systems have and will continue to have on the present and future battlefield. In recognition of this, the British army will establish a new UAS group by the end of this year, its leader said Sept. 12.

The unit will fall under the British military’s “reorientated Joint Aviation Command,” which is currently called the Joint Helicopter Command, said Gen. Sir Patrick Sanders, the British army’s chief of the general staff, during keynote remarks at the DSEI trade show in London.

“This expanded JAC remit will bring deep, deep expertise and the coherence that the new defense uncrewed strategy requires” and “provide a focal point for industry around which we intend to develop the next generation of UAS platforms in even closer partnership,” Sanders said.

Along with new drones, the British army is also going all-in on data, which Sanders called “our second most valuable asset behind our people.

“The army's approach to data will define our ability to adopt artificial intelligence at pace and scale for whole force benefit, in a human-centric, trusted and responsible manner,” he said. The service is already underway on over 25 data projects, “with more starting each week,” he added.

The goal is to make the British army a “software-defined and data-centric force,” he said. “We can't achieve this alone, and so we're engaging broadly to work collaboratively to solve problems.

“No one in this hall here today is going to win army AI,” he continued. “On the contrary, we're going to seek out every opportunity to develop an ecosystem of companies and partners who can move with us towards greater capability for the army.”

Along with developing new capabilities, the British army is also increasing investment in the people who will operate the next-generation systems, he said, noting that in the Ukrainian drone campaign, 40 percent of losses are attributable to pilot error.

“New capabilities require new skills,” he said. “When the electromagnetic spectrum is so heavily contested and automation fails, the skill of the pilot predominates. So, we need warfighters — whether they're cyber specialists, drone pilots, or infantry soldiers — to be stronger, faster, more intelligent and more resilient.”

In what Sanders described as the “most significant step in professionalizing military leadership since the Royal Military College was founded in 1801,” the service is launching a new British Army Soldier Academy this year, followed by a non-commissioned officer academy in 2024.

These new training schools will “maximize the potential of every soldier and equip our NCOs with the skills they need to meet the demands of the modern battlefield,” he added.

“We're investing in our people — and perhaps your future employees,” Sanders told the mostly industry crowd. “It's not armies that win war — nations do — and it's our combined strength that provides the U.K.’s deterrence.”


Topics: Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Unmanned Air Vehicles, International

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