Feeds

UK army radio 'not ready for war time' says infantry chief

'Politics' triggers not-work centric warfare

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

The British Army's new communications system, Bowman, isn't ready for front line infantry operations but has nevertheless been put into service "for political reasons," a senior officer told a recent School of Infantry briefing. Quoted in the Daily Telegraph, Director of Infantry Jamie Balfour pulled few punches. "all the rumours you've heard. It is as bad as you've heard... Now you guys will have to go out and find a way of making it work."

Balfour, who according to the Telegraph initially refused to accept deliver of Bowman but was overruled, signed off his briefing with: "Hang onto your cellphones".

Bowman is a key component of the British Army's implementation of network-centric warfare, Network Enabled Capability, and is alleged by the MoD to have 'entered service' in March 2004. However, it began a slow rollout in July, and is fairly generally felt to have been pushed into service in order to meet Government targets, rather than because it was ready, as such. The estimated cost of £1.9 billion is probably on the low side, and last year it was subject to a series of unfavourable news reports (particularly in the Telegraph, alongside numerous Parliamentary questions.

Bowman is intended to replace the current Clansman radio system, which was designed in the 60s, and was originally scheduled for deployment in the early 90s. The BAe-led Archer consortium, which was originally in charge of the project, was sacked and replaced by General Dynamics, and the system's deployment now comes against a background of savage criticism of the MoD's overall procurement record, Bowman's own "difficult history", and the MoD's recently-discovered enthusiasm for US-style hi-tech warfare. It would be wrong to categorise it as wholly useless, but even its supporters in the Army accept that it has a few problems.

At 15 pounds for the 'portable' version is much heavier than its Clansman equivalent, and the company level radio is so heavy it has to be fitted to a specially reinforced vehicle. Problems have been reported in fitting it into Challenger 2 tanks, and in its first trials with the Royal Anglian Regiment it produced radio burns at some settings. A keypad and data terminal unit for the section level radio hopefully described as 'arm-wearable' turned out to weigh 2kg, claims the Telegraph. The radio side seems to work well, and secure voice is a welcome addition to infantry operations, but its current size and weight limits its effectiveness when deployed at section level.

So the upside would appear to be that the British Army now has a key component of the 'networked battlespace' vision, but that vision can't yet be adequately delivered to the individual squaddie. It's probably not alone there among the world's armed forces, given that the vision is currently a lot less practicable than the Star Trek-struck planners generally believe. They tend to have wildly optimistic impressions of what the technology can do (the 2 kilo 'wristwatch') while their demands for squaddie-proofing produce axle-breaking units. It will, says the MoD, get better. According to Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram "the capability delivered by Bowman will develop over time as new platforms, communications and information systems, and battlefield applications are delivered over the coming years." ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts Dragon on third resupply mission to ISS
SpaceX snaps smartly into one-second launch window
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.