Feeds

MoD opens urban-warfare compo

Design ambush-sniffing tech and win a barrel of pork

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) yesterday opened its "Grand Challenge", an inventors' competition designed "to create a system with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor, and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment".

As if this wasn't difficult enough, "its use should not alert the enemy as to the proximity of friendly troops; it should have a low visual and acoustic signature and it should either exhibit good resistance to countermeasures or be an easily replaceable consumable item".

The winner of the contest will receive a valuable barrel of pork contract to develop the system, and also the new "R J Mitchell Trophy", named after the designer of the WWII Spitfire fighter.

Defence Procurement Minister Lord Drayson said: "R J Mitchell was an innovator whose bold Spitfire design went on to play a key role...I truly believe the MoD with the cutting edge of British scientists and engineers can capture the spirit of innovation that drove R J Mitchell, and provide a critical capability to the UK Armed Forces."

The MoD also says "the R J Mitchell Trophy [is] suitably relevant given the immense innovation shown by R J Mitchell in developing the Spitfire – initially created as the Supermarine Seaplane to win the Schneider Trophy."

The Schneider Trophy, of course, was set up by a wealthy Frenchman. And Mitchell's most famous Schneider winner, the Supermarine S6b of 1931, was actually refused funding by the British government. It's not clear quite what message the MoD wants to send here; but Grand Challenge entry rules allow contenders to put together entries at their own expense, so perhaps the historical allusions are appropriate.

There is also a separate, more complicated protocol under which a competitor can apply for MoD development funding. The deadline for applications is 15 May in either case. Both funded and unfunded entries will compete in a "grand finale" during summer 2008, to be held in an Army urban-combat training area.

The winning system will be expected to sniff out roadside bombs, rocket-propelled-grenade ambushes, snipers, and suchlike urban-combat threats. It will be expected to answer questions such as: "What waits at the next intersection? What lies round the corner of the next building or concealed in houses or behind rooftop parapets?"

Some military traditionalists might suggest that these are questions that can really only be answered by putting a lot of troops on the ground in the form of surveillance teams, observation posts, intelligence units, and foot patrols. British troops, however, are in short supply at the moment.

In any case, the UK government seems keen to move away from a labour-intensive approach to soldiering and towards a capital-intensive, technology-driven one. This has been illustrated by recent cuts to the infantry and the announcement of £2bn in funds for the FIST wearable-tech project.

The Grand Challenge should make interesting watching, if nothing else. ®

Best practices for enterprise data

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations
Fix coming for bug that makes Kerberos croak when you run two domain controllers
Cisco says network virtualisation won't pay off everywhere
Another sign of strain in the Borg/VMware relationship?
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?