The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a new initiative described as “the most radical transformation programme in over 20 years” for the British Army, with the use of advanced technology a key pillar.
The Future Soldier programme is a modernisation exercise aimed at equipping the Army with the capabilities it needs to address global next-generation threats. The programme will be supported by an investment of £8.6bn in equipment over the next 10 years, bringing total equipment investment to £41.3bn for the coming decade.
With the objective of positioning the Army as a “globally engaged fighting force”, the programme will focus on emerging technologies and cyber capabilities. Described as an “evolutionary step”, the MoD anticipates the move will bring a number of changes to how the Army operates its structure, workforce and technology, and make it a more agile organisation.
“Future Soldier is reinforced by the ambition outlined in the Defence Command Paper to transform the Army into a more agile, integrated, lethal, expeditionary force,” said defence secretary Ben Wallace.
“Our Army will operate across the globe, equipped with the capabilities to face down a myriad of threats from cyber warfare through to battlefield conflict,” he added.
According to the MoD, one of the initiatives under the programme on the modernised warfighting front is an Experimentation and Trials group, which will be established in 2022.
The unit will lead on trialling new technologies and integrating them into how soldiers fight and operate. To support its activities in technology and innovation, the Army will receive a “significant” R&D funding boost.
In addition, the transformation programme also includes a plan to launch a Soldier Academy and a new career management system that is “fit for the digital age”.
The Army’s transformation programme follows the announcement of the MoD’s 10-year digital strategy in July 2021, which focuses on creating a digital backbone and enabling the department to exploit data and innovation.
The strategy includes plans to establish a “digital foundry”, a federated ecosystem of digital innovators and developers, including a defence-specific artificial intelligence centre, with the aim of creating a “unique digital exploitation capability for all of defence”.
Earlier this month, the Royal Navy announced a £100m, 13-year contract to develop radar detection capabilities, which was described as a “generational leap” in the UK’s electronic warfare capabilities.
Also this month, controversy emerged in relation to the use of next-generation technology to support warfare, as a government minister refused to rule out the future use of lethal autonomous weapons amid calls for regulation for new technologies in the area.