Select Committee on Defence Fourth Report


98. Sir Jock Stirrup has concluded that 'information superiority'[234] will need to be given a higher priority—

    A number of the systems which we are introducing are going to rely crucially upon information of the first questions that any Director of Equipment Capability[235] should be asking when considering a project and certainly one of the first questions he or she should be prepared to answer is, how does this fit into and contribute to the overall defence network capability? ... Information superiority is fundamental to everything that we do and that is absolutely our top priority at the moment.[236] ... It is also a key component of the sort of equipment capabilities that the SDR New Chapter is likely to identify as new priorities.[237]

    ... we need expeditionary forces that focus on speed, precision and self-protection. It is clear that we need to focus on information superiority and network-centric capability to enable that.[238]

99. Sir Jock seized on two areas where the MoD has to be more pro-active in shaping the future—

    The first one is continuing our move towards a proper network-centric capability,[239] which is very much related to my theme of looking at equipment capability in the round, as a synergistic whole. Network-centric capability is fundamental to that and we are doing a great deal of work in that regard. The other area ... is [the potential of] unmanned aerial vehicles... across the full spectrum of equipment capability. This is an area that is going to transform the way in which we do things. ... We are going to have to change fundamentally our doctrine, our concepts, our manning, our training, our infrastructure and so on. ... uninhabited vehicles are going to be key to our business in the future.[240]

100. Information superiority is the stuff of three of the programmes that we are monitoring—Bowman (which we cover below), and Watchkeeper UAVs and part of the capability from the Future Rapid Effects System vehicles[241] which together will provide components of a land commander's intelligence, surveillance, target-acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. In the Future Rapid Effects System, the ISTAR component will be available through the reconnaissance variant of the vehicles (one of nine); a follow-on to the US/UK 'TRACER' reconnaissance vehicles development programme that will cease in July 2002. The Future Rapid Effects System as a whole, though, is a programme still in the concept phase, with its operational requirement still to be refined. The Watchkeeper UAV too is in its early stages of assessment,[242] with an invitation to four firms to submit their proposals for detailed assessment work only having been sent out in February 2002. Like Sir Jock, we see these as critical areas for the key future capabilities that our forces will need in not only the post-Cold War, but post-11 September, world. We will be looking at how the SDR New Chapter addresses the need for these sorts of rapidly deployable, network-centric capabilities, and we will be monitoring these areas closely in our future procurement inquiries.

101. As Sir Jock Stirrup acknowledged, the Bowman programme is a fundamental part of that future network-centric capability.[243] Bowman is intended to provide improved, secure voice-and-data communications systems for land/littoral operations, replacing the 1970s-vintage and now increasingly unreliable Clansman system (as well as Ptarmigan kit in vehicles). It will include 47,000 man-portable radios (supplemented by non-secure 'Personal Role Radios' that are now entering service[244]) and 26,000 terminals for tanks, helicopters and warships, to provide a network for communications and situational awareness for tactical level mobile operations. It will also provide trunk and satellite links to higher formations.[245] In all, Bowman equipment will be fitted to 20,000 vehicles, 149 naval vessels and 350 aircraft. [246]

102. The previous Defence Committee examined Bowman in some detail in 2000.[247] At that time, with total delays—past and projected—of 9 years, the MoD had recently decided to seek new bids from three alternative firms with a view to a possible re-launch of the Bowman competition (rather than continuing to negotiate a production contract with the then preferred contractor). Our predecessors' report urged the MoD to take this bold departure if it held the prospect of rescuing the programme. Subsequently, in June 2000, the MoD did relaunch the competition, it selected General Dynamics UK[248] in July 2001, and placed a production contract with them in September 2001. The MoD had also reassessed the Bowman requirement in 1999 and 2000, and some easing of the required capabilities was made.[249] The contract with the new supplier now envisages an in-service date of March 2004, but with upgrading thereafter and a full capability only when deliveries are completed in 2007.[250]

103. With the Bowman programme now apparently on a better track, and with its introduction not now so far distant, we sought Sir Jock's perspectives on its importance from a capability point of view. He highlighted its—

    secure voice service, secure data messaging, the automatic position location navigation recording system, which is going to make command-and-control that much easier, data communications in support of all our various information systems and the management information system itself are all ... fundamental to employing our military power effectively in the future. So it is the Army's top priority to get this into service as soon as possible.[251]

    It will enable us to exercise command-and-control of forces in a much more efficient manner than we are able to at the moment....[There is] a parallel with the introduction on the Tornado F3 of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System ...[where] the ability to distribute information from a wide variety of sources to those who needed to have it transformed their situational awareness and their tactical capabilities. The same is true in all environments, and Bowman is going to be a critical part of that for the land forces.[252]

104. The MoD's bold step in relaunching the Bowman competition two years ago appears to have been vindicated by an end to the previously regular delays. The MoD needs to focus now on introducing this vital component of network-centric warfare capability as quickly as possible.

234   'Information Superiority' within DCDS(EC)'s organisation comprises 'Command & Control and Information Infrastructure' (CCII) and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR). Back

235   Within the DCDS (EC) organisation, around a dozen Directors of Equipment Capability manage 'Capability Working Groups' to identify possible equipment concepts to fill capability gaps. These Groups-some 50 overall-include Integrated Project Team staff, the prospective Service end-user of the equipment, and industry. Back

236   QQ 163, 164 Back

237   Q 168 Back

238   Q 171 Back

239   Network-centric warfare focusses not on weapon platforms but on the communications linkages between sensors, commanders and strike systems, to identify and strike targets with greater speed and flexibility. Back

240   Q 160 Back

241   Ev 75 Back

242   For planning purposes it currently has an in-service date of 2007. Back

243   Q 256 Back

244   We saw these being used on Exercise Saif Sareea, and they are now in use in Afghanistan. Back

245   Ev 84, para 1 Back

246   Ev 84, para 4 Back

247   Tenth Report Session 1999-2000 op cit Back

248   At that time Computing Devices Canada. General Dynamics UK was formed from the merger of CDC Systems and Computing Devices Company in 2001. Back

249   Tenth Report, Session 1999-2000, op cit, paras 45 et seq Back

250   Ev 84, para 3 Back

251   Q 257 Back

252   Q 260 Back

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