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MoD orders £3m anti-friendly-fire 'Combat ID Server'

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Controversial gov-plunder warboffinry firm Qinetiq - in partnership with US armsbiz giants - has won a £3m deal from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for a prototype server intended to prevent "friendly fire" incidents.

Qinetiq will ally with General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins to provide the MoD with a "Joint Data Network Combat Identification Server Technical Demonstrator". The idea of the Combat ID Server is to provide strike pilots, artillery commanders and other openers of battlefield cans of whup-ass with "near real time" locations of friendly units. This, it is hoped, will reduce the tendency for British troops to be accidentally hit by friendly forces.

The server will take in position reports from a bewildering panoply of different military networks. This will include the British ground forces' much-maligned Bowman digital comms, each node of which is able to report its own location into the "radio cloud" using integrated GPS sat nav.

The idea is that suitably equipped strike jets, artillery command posts and so on will be able to query the Combat ID server routinely as they prepare to bring the good news of peace and democracy to the tough places of the world. Should a British unit be in their gunsights, the system will automatically tell them so.

One might note, however, that one of the most important Bowman radios in this context - the "portable" unit carried by the leader of each four man team of footsoldiers - may be a problem here. Frustrated by its poor battery life and the fact that the battery must be removed to check how much juice remains, troops on the ground not infrequently leave it switched off so as to be sure there will still be power when they need to send a message.

This naturally will mean that they don't appear on the Combat ID Server data-map. But perhaps these problems will have been sorted out by the time the friendly-fire-defence system is in field service.

Qinetiq says that the tech demonstrator will have been built and tested by June 2010, with fielding to follow on from there if all goes well. Rockwell's existing "Rosetta" data-gate tech and GD's NetLink will be used, but "all development and integration work will be conducted within the UK" by Qinetiq and the two US firms' British subsidiaries. ®

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