DB - Digital Battlespace

UK looks to automate indirect fire comms

10th September 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Gerrard Cowan in London

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There is a growing demand for multinational interoperability in indirect fire support, fuelling a requirement for increased automation in communications, according to CGI, a UK-based supplier in the area. 

In mid-August CGI announced it had won a £17 million contract to provide a mid-life upgrade for the UK Ministry of Defence’s Fire Control Battlefield Information (FC BISA) application, a software system used for communications in indirect fire support. 

CGI will update FC BISA, digitising the current practice of voice communications and automating much of the process: this will allow the UK to implement NATO’s Artillery Systems Cooperation Activities (ACSA) capability, which allows for interoperability in indirect fire support among alliance members. 

The increased appetite for interoperability and open architectures is linked to ‘the importance of widespread situational awareness in an increasingly complex battlespace environment, and the need for optimisation and innovation to achieve it’, said Colin Sanderson, CGI’s VP for defence operational systems. 

Maintaining this interoperability places communications systems under an increasingly heavy load, Sanderson added, driving ‘the need for solutions to offer increased automation and machine-to-machine communication to reduce operator workload and maintain effectiveness under battlefield conditions’. 

CGI supplies the British Armed Forces with other systems related to indirect fire support, including its Fire Control Application (FCA), a handheld device used to plan and execute fire missions. 

FCA has been in service with the Royal Artillery, army infantry and the Royal Marines since 2003. While the latest contract is only associated with FC BISA, CGI continues to provide in-service support for FCA, Sanderson said, and discusses potential opportunities and upgrades with the UK MoD. 

For example, there could be opportunities to consolidate FC BISA, FCA and other technologies related to indirect fire support into a single software product, he said.  

An interesting aspect of the ASCA work is the fact that it will see CGI employees working with the MoD and other allied nations at trials, exercises and technical conferences, said Sanderson. He believes this could produce new opportunities for the company in the coming years. 

‘Through successful delivery and exploitation of FC BISA’s diverse capabilities, we expect this to lead to a range of opportunities.’

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