Joint Medical Group deploys to Oman ahead of Exercise Saif Sareea 3

The Joint Medical Group has deployed to Oman ahead of a joint exercise between the armed forces of the UK and Oman.

Exercise Saif Sareea 3 (SS3) will take place across Oman in October and November. It is the UK armed forces’ lead exercise this year and the largest in 17 years. It is also the third UK-Oman joint exercise, with the previous two taking place in 1986 and 2001.

SS3 will showcase the UK and Oman’s ability to operate together in austere conditions through the deployment of a Coalition Joint Task Force.

Joint Forces Command’s (JFC) unique role in the exercise is in planning and enabling, demonstrating its world-leading ability to deploy internationally in challenging environments and run the vital functions of a successful exercise, such as logistics, command and control, and medical.

The Joint Medical Group will play a fundamental role in the safe delivery of the exercise. This week, as part of preparations for SS3, a Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) were put to the test in the 40-degree heat of the Omani desert.

As part of this week’s training, a doctor, nurse and two paramedics from MERT field tested a new method to transport life-saving blood.

They experimented with transporting blood for up to 72 hours – , vastly increasing their capability to successfully treat casualties in the field.

Captain Murphy said: “We now store the blood from its arrival in theatre and maintain the cold chain throughout. We then prepare the Golden Hour Box in order to transport blood to a casualty.”

The Golden Hour Box refers to the 72-hour cold storage that maintains the blood between 2-6°C.

Medical training and preparation will continue in the lead up to the exercise, including the testing of equipment and processes to confirm that the medical chain can deal with challenges before the bulk of UK forces arrive.

A series of Mutual Medical Drills Training packages will also run at Shafa, where Omani field medical unit personnel will join UK Joint Medical Group counterparts inside the deployed British facilities to work through a series of clinical scenarios.

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RFA Tideforce arrives in Cornwall for customisation

The fourth and final Tide class tanker, RFA Tideforce, has arrived in Cornwall for customisation ahead of entering service.

The 39,000 tonne vessel, which will deliver fuel and water to Royal Navy ships on operations all over the world, follows her sister ships Tidespring, Tiderace and Tidesurge into the A&P Falmouth yard, where work to customise the fleet ahead of operational service is sustaining 300 jobs.

With the homecoming voyage complete, all four of the tankers have now arrived safely in the UK, marking the end of a crucial phase of the fleet’s delivery programme.

Each of the Tide class ships is as long as three jumbo jets and has a flight deck large enough for a Chinook helicopter to land on. Like the rest of the fleet, Tideforce is equipped to refuel Royal Navy warships, including the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, in hostile environments and challenging sea conditions.

Customisation work, including the installation of communications equipment and defensive systems, is sustaining hundreds of jobs in A&P Falmouth, while the wider Tide class programme is sustaining further jobs at 26 other companies throughout the UK.

Minister for Defence Procurement Stuart Andrew said: “Tideforce’s arrival completes our new tanker fleet, ensuring our warships can continue their essential work across the globe. Hundreds of Cornwall workers will now install state-of-the-art systems before she joins her sister ships on operations next year.

“Providing everything from a floating helipad, to a refuelling vessel for our brand-new aircraft carriers, we are delivering the equipment our Armed Forces need to combat illegal trade, safeguard our waters and promote peace throughout the world.”

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Exporting the Border: National security in the age of e-commerce

Securing our nation’s borders has long been a bone of contention, both within the UK and abroad – in Calais, for example, where the migrant crisis has strained diplomatic relations between Great Britain and France. From a political, social and economic standpointthe immigration debate continues to cause upheaval. And yet, as complex threats emerge – each more sophisticated than the last – the efforts of the UK Border Force are proving absolutely integral to the preservation of national security, as defence features writer Robert Atherton soon found. 

Where border security is concerned the biggest challenge is one of balance, I’m told. It’s a never-ending tightrope walk between national security and passenger expediency. How do we identify the relatively small proportion of high-risk passengers or cargo without impacting the free flow of people and goods into the country? Today, the answer to this question is perhaps more difficult to discern than ever before. As of 2017, best estimates place the number of air travellers at around 1.3 billion, with that figure projected to rise by a further 5% between now and 2020. 

Against this backdrop, the UK Border Force is also experiencing a noteworthy rise in the number of emerging threats. Naturally, most minds alight on terrorist activity – the radicalised few who seek to destabilise the West from within by whatever means necessary. But there are more prosaic concerns as well, most notably in the form of organised crime. Illicit goods or narcotics, human trafficking and intellectual property infringement (counterfeit goods which pose a potential health and safety risk) are all issues that the UK Border Force must contend with on a daily basis. 

According to Ray Batt, Director of Border Security at Unisys, the nature of these threats is developing in line with our own lifestyle trends: “As consumers in the age of globalisation and ecommerce we take for granted the likes of Amazon or Alibaba; that goods ordered online can be on our doorstep within 24 hours. But from an organised crime or counter terror perspective the growth of fast parcels and post means that components can easily be concealed within deliveries to manufacture an improvised explosive device or harmful agent. 

By that same token, a firearm could be stripped down to its basic components; each piece shipped separately across the globe to be assembled at a later date. Every package carries with it this same element of risk and the slightest oversight, however small, could result in catastrophe further down the line. The tightrope walk continues. 

For the uninitiated, Unisys is the global information technology specialist responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of risk assessment systems on behalf of US Customs and Border Protection – itself part of the Department of Homeland Security. In Ray’s view, border agencies are beginning to extend their reach outward beyond their physical jurisdictions, creating e-borders where intelligence is gathered and shared to identify potential risks ahead of their arrival. It’s a concept known in industry as ‘exporting the border’. 

“You have to push beyond the physical border,” explained Ray, “right the way through the supply chain and the passenger transaction to the individual making the booking or applying for the visa. Today, advanced risk assessments can be carried out long before a passenger actually travels. 

Technology has an obvious role to play here, and innovations in software – such as Unisys’ own LineSight – are proving instrumental. Advanced data analytics and machine learning are augmenting on-the-spot decision-making to better identify which passengers and cargo warrant closer inspection. 

It all comes down to the risk assessment, which begins at the very first indication of travel and is refined with every additional layer of information, be it the traveller’s visa application, reservation, ticket purchase, seat selection, check-in or arrival. Each piece of the puzzle helps form a broader picture of the passenger, placing them in a category based on risk. 

“Governments around the world are facing enormous challenges related to protecting their borders against growing threats like drug trafficking and terrorism,” commented Alison Brooks, Research Director for Smart Cities and Public Safety at the International Data Centre. “They will need to leverage technologies like advanced data analytics and machine learning to stay ahead of adversaries with the ability to predict threats before they occur.” 

As if all this wasn’t difficult enough, we’ll soon have Brexit to contend with and all of the unknowns that come with it. For the UK Border Force, Brexit represents a dramatic shift in the status quo. The true implications have yet to be defined, however, both in Britain and across the Irish Sea where an open border between north and south is of critical economic and political importance. 

“There are still a lot of unknowns,” said Ray when asked for his own assessment. While we don’t yet know what the regulatory framework will be, it’s fair to say that the way in which we treat individuals entering the United Kingdom is going to change. Today, there’s a huge contingent of EU citizens able to freely enter the UK who are effectively regarded as low risk. These people will now possibly be considered thirdcountry nationals and processed in the same way that non-EU citizens are currently. That has big implications certainly.” 

It’s a challenging time all over. The Syrian Civil War and subsequent migrant crisis has stretched European borders to breaking point, with opportunists using this as a means to infiltrate western states and sow discord. The threat of Russian intrusion has also risen, while organised crime continues unabated like some universal constant, growing more sophisticated over time. The UK Border Force is our dividing line, and with greater reliance on technology the hope now is that the nation can be a safer place for all people, regardless of origin. 

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MOD to train next generation of cyber veterans

The Ministry of Defence and new not-for-profit TechVets have joined forces to help more veterans become cyber warriors.

TechVets, which specialises in helping veterans get jobs in the cyber security and technology sector, will work with the MOD’s flagship training programme for service leavers, under a new agreement.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood welcomed the agreement, after the not-for profit group’s co-founder Mark Milton signed the Armed Forces Covenant at the Ministry of Defence’s Headquarters in London.

The technology and cyber security sector is rapidly growing, and while people leaving the armed forces have unique skills and experience which they can contribute in this area, currently only 4% of veterans are currently working in technology and cyber, compared to 24% of non-veterans.

The agreement will look to increase the numbers of cyber veterans, by having TechVets work with the MOD’s Career Transition Partnership, which provides service leavers with training and education opportunities whilst transitioning out of the armed forces.

Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said: “Veterans have unique skills and experiences, gained from their time in the armed forces, which means they contribute a lot to society. It’s fantastic that TechVets will provide opportunities for veterans to apply their considerable talents to the cyber security field, which is playing an increasingly vital role in keeping this country safe.”

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Solar powered Airbus Zephyr obliterates world flight record

Airbus Defence and Space is celebrating the successful landing of the first production aircraft of the Zephyr programme; the new Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite).

During its maiden voyage, which began in Arizona on 11th July, the Zephyr S logged an astounding 25 days in air, making it the single longest flight in aviation history. For Airbus, the success vindicates the aircraft’s use of solar power, and an application has now been made to have the achievement officially recognised as a new world record.

Previously, the longest flight duration record belonged to an earlier Zephyr prototype, which flew 14 days continuously – already ten time longer than any other aircraft in the world today.

For the uninitiated, Zephyr is a solar–electric, stratospheric Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It harnesses the sun’s rays, running exclusively on solar power, above the weather and conventional air traffic; filling a capability gap complimentary to satellites, UAVs and manned aircraft to provide persistent local satellite-like services.

The aircraft will bring new see, sense and connect capabilities to both the commercial and defence sectors. It has the potential to revolutionise disaster management, including the monitoring of wildfires or oil spills, and it can provide persistent surveillance and communications to the most unconnected parts of the world.

“This very successful maiden flight represents a new significant milestone in the Zephyr programme, adding a new stratospheric flight endurance record which we hope will be formalised very shortly,” concluded Jana Rosenmann, Head of Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus. “We will in the coming days check all engineering data and outputs and start the preparation of additional flights planned for the second half of this year from our new operating site at the Wyndham airfield in Western Australia.”

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FNH UK: a Long-Term Partner for British Defence Forces

FNH UK is the UK-based subsidiary of FN Herstal, a name synonymous with excellence and global leadership, backed up by passionate and talented people for 130 years. 

The unique FN portfolio includes portable firearms and ammunition, less lethal systems, an FN® e-novation line, integrated weapon solutions for air, land, sea applications and remote weapon stations, all combined with a 360-degree service.

Pistols & Submachine Guns

The FN Five-seveN® Tactical Mk2 pistol is extremely light with a magazine holding 20 cartridges. The FN P90® submachine gun is a compact, lightweight weapon with a 50-round magazine making it the ideal Personal Defence Weapon.

Carbines, Rifles & Grenade Launchers

The FN SCAR® family of rifles covers the full range of requirements with the very short subcompact version, the 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO calibre assault rifles, and the highly accurate precision rifles. The 40mm FN40GL® Mk2 grenade launcher, mounted under any FN SCAR® assault rifle or used as a stand-alone launcher, provides increased capability to the user.

Machine Guns

The FN MINIMI® Light Machine Gun (now Mk3 version) available in 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO calibre, the FN MAG® 7.62mm NATO General Purpose/Medium Machine Gun, and the FN® M2HB-QCB and FN® M3 .50 Cal Machine Guns have repeatedly proved themselves in combat to earn their position as market leaders in their field.

Less Lethal Systems

FNH UK proposes a range of FN 303® less lethal launchers and projectiles that deliver a sufficiently dissuasive, temporary level of pain within the impact zone to obtain immediate compliance.

FN® e-novation Line

This innovative line is composed of the FN® Expert marksmanship training system, FN® FCU Mk3 fire control unit for 40mm grenades and FN SmartCore® shot counter with dedicated software for smart small arms management.

Small Calibre Ammunition

The Company has a proven record in the development and production of high quality small calibre ammunition to ensure full reliability of the weapons on the battlefield.

Airborne Crew Served Weapon Solutions

These systems are designed around FN machine guns (FN MAG® and world exclusive FN® M3) to guarantee full mission capability while ensuring protection for the carrier and maximum safety for the crew.

Airborne Fixed-Forward Firing Solutions

These fixed-forward weapon systems come with a complete suite of solutions, providing military forces with the highest level of operational capability for their rotary- or fixed-wing applications.

Remote Weapon Stations

The deFNder® family of Remote Weapon Stations provides optimized remote firing capability while keeping the operator completely under armour protection.

Land & Sea Mounted Weapon Solutions

FNH UK integrates its machine guns onto pintle-mounted or coaxial weapon systems for land and naval applications.

A 360-degree service

To back its quality products FNH UK proposes effective and reactive assistance to ensure long and reliable service life. FNH UK provides training, technical assistance and documentation, upgrades, retrofits and everything customers in the UK need to gain the maximum tactical advantage from its innovative range.

For more information on FNH UK, visit

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Regenerative medicine at the frontline

Advances in trauma care during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in a year-on-year increase in survival from blast and ballistic injuries. This led, however, to survivors with increasingly serious injuries requiring intensive reconstruction and rehabilitation. We take a look at how the Ministry of Defence is seeking to exploit the emerging field of regenerative medicine for use at the frontline in order to maximise functional recovery from these devastating injuries. 

Regenerative medicine is a relatively new field that seeks to develop methods to re-grow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues.   

The implications of this emerging technology are huge and hold great potential for treating people injured as a result of conflict. 

Recognising this, the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has launched the Regenerative Medicine at the Front Line competition looking for proposals for regenerative technologies that can be applied very early after severe, traumatic injury resulting from combat or acts of terrorism. 

This very early application of regenerative medicine techniques represents a completely new manner of utilisation, as opposed to normally being employed long after wounding locations remote to the battlefield. 

Sponsored by the Regenerative Medicine project within the Protecting Our People programme at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the competition challenges were identified from a detailed scoping study which combined an assessment of the likely future requirements of Defence Medical Services with the current regenerative medicine research landscape in the UK and internationally.   

Indeed, trauma care has undergone radical change following Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan. Between 2006 and 2014, 1,982 UK Service Personnel were admitted to the field hospital with injuries that required the activation of the UK trauma team, having sustained 10,371 separate injuries.  

The threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) is evident in the figures. Half of injuries sustained were to the extremities – the biggest number of those to the lower limbs. 

This unfortunate familiarity has led to significant improvements in survival following severe injury from gunshot wounds or explosion. However, many are left with life-changing injuries such as loss of limbs, burns and scarring. Injuries such as these can not only have a physical impact but can also leave severe psychological damage. 

Future British military operations could potentially see longer casualty evacuation timelines and medical care being delivered in harsher environments. 

This presents the difficulty of delivering not only  life-saving interventions but also ongoing medical management of the casualty which should seek to maximise functional recovery. Unfortunately, many of what would be considered the more traditional approaches in regenerative medicine could only be delivered at a hospital facility back home. 

However, the scoping study, carried out jointly by Dstl and the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM), identified that there are various spheres of research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine which could be utilised as early interventions that could further revolutionise front line trauma care.  

It is envisaged that shifting the focus of tissue regeneration to earlier in the care pathway could maximise the success of later functional recovery. 

The battlefield is clearly an extremely challenging environment for the development and delivery of regenerative medicine technologies. This means a number of factors must be considered in the development of such approaches; these include the type and severity of the injury, the environment and the logistical context. 

Given these obstacles, the MOD is keen to explore technologies that will help those injured on the frontline and reduce the burden on later care supplied by both the MOD and the National Health Service. 

A DASA Innovation Network event was held in Bristol in February, as the competition sought new technologies and approaches that bring the principles of regenerative medicine to the front line and provide a truly disruptive capability for Defence. 

The competition has two challenge areas – bioengineered blood and blood components; and the preservation and regeneration of soft tissue using biophysical approaches. For both, proposed technologies must take into account the particular difficulties of delivering trauma care in challenging environments. 

The first challenge explores how tissue engineering and regenerative medicine are likely to hold the key to the logistical challenges of using blood products in future conflicts, and how these products could be optimised 

The production of blood components in vitro would remove the requirement for blood donation. Above and beyond this, however, it is envisaged that this could lead to further innovation – using the principles of tissue engineering to produce blood components with reduced immunogenicity, improved storage profiles or augmented functionality, for example.  

In recent combat operations, red cells and platelets have been the only ‘cellular therapy’ used in theatre as replacements for blood lost during haemorrhage. In this challenge, DASA is looking for proposals that push at the boundaries of what these high value assets are able to do. 

The second challenge focuses on finding solutions to be used early after wounding following high-energy transfer from ballistics and blast to encourage the regeneration of soft tissue and mitigate the ensuing progressive tissue loss. 

The repair and regeneration of severe tissue damage involves a complex set of biological processes that need to occur with the right balance, at the right time and in the right sequence for a tissue to repair, regenerate and/or undergo successful reconstructive procedures. 

Early intervention often leads to more successful outcomes and a variety of biological approaches are under investigation for the manipulation of wound healing and regeneration after significant soft tissue damage.  

Many of these approaches present logistical difficulties at the frontline or during casualty evacuation, which could be quite protracted in future operations, with extended time to the delivery of definitive care also likely to negatively impact progressive tissue loss. 

Physical approaches can be used to encourage the repair and regeneration of a variety of tissues and are likely to be less of a logistical burden than biological solutions. They may be a useful way to halt the progressive deterioration of tissue during transit and switch tissues to a regenerative trajectory. 

The competition encourages submissions that develop the use of acellular approaches for the preservation and regeneration of soft tissues.  

Dr. Abigail Spear, Principal Scientist at Dstl and Technical Lead for DASA funding competition, said: “This dedicated focus on regenerative medicine research has been, and continues to be, an extremely fruitful collaboration between Dstl and the Academic Department for Military Surgery and Trauma at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. In this way we have brought together scientific, clinical and operational expertise to form an evidence-based strategy for MOD’s engagement in regenerative medicine research. 

“This DASA funding competition forms a first step in implementation of our strategy to provide disruptive solutions for front line trauma care in the future. We are excited to see these projects develop and welcome continued engagement from inside and outside of Defence as we move forward.” 

The closing date for submissions to this competition was in April, with Phase 1 funding decisions made in May.  

DASA will take forward a number of the most successful outputs from phase 1 projects for phase 2 funding. Only bidders funded at phase 1 will qualify for entry into phase 2 of the competition where at least an additional £500,000 of funding will be made available. Phase 2 funding will be awarded, based on the Accelerator assessment criteria, on a per-project basis.  

A phase 1 collaboration event will be held later this year, with a demonstration day due to take place in June 2019. 

For more information, please visit: 

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DASA to fund decisionLab’s innovation in aircraft and fleet support

A progressive unified asset health management and risk forecasting tool using state of the art data science and analytical modelling could save front line forces an estimated significant savings if successful.

The two-stage recurrent neural network is being developed by a company called decisionLab and is being sponsored by Joint Forces Command and funded by the MOD’s Defence Innovation Fund through the Defence and Security Accelerator’s (DASA) fast track ‘Revolutionise the human information relationship for Defence’ competition.

Originally developed for the civilian aviation market, this research funding has enabled the product to be redeveloped to be suitable for the military market.

It’s hoped it will in time provide an insight into the future, allowing maintenance engineers to view the status of their systems and the predicted health of that system a day, week, or even a fortnight in advance.

Gripped by this opportunity, the Royal Navy has invested £150,000 in the development of this neural network for exploitation on-board a Type 45 destroyer, and pull through onto the Type 26 – if proven successful.

A Royal Navy ship is incredibly complex, and the Type 45’s systems can record 10 million data points a day. With such a huge and complex dataset, the type of machine learning offered by the neural network will likely have a significant impact on maintenance schedules and support, improving capability, saving money and delivering efficiency.

At present, decisionLab is training their neural network on 1.8 billion lines of Type 45 Platform Management System data. Each day the system gets smarter and more capable, and under current development plans this system will be installed onboard HMS DIAMOND for a trial in the summer. It will allow the user to validate system assumptions and help contextualise events to further train and improve the model.

Lee Packer, Innovation Programme Manager for the Royal Navy, said: “The Defence and Security Accelerator competitions provide the Royal Navy with a unique opportunity to both engage with a broad spectrum of small to medium sized enterprises whom are often new to the Defence market, and to grip technological opportunities from disruptive markets and apply them to Defence problems. This rapid development process, with collaboration at its core, will provide battle-winning capabilities to the hands of the user.”

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Defence Secretary pays tribute to Romanian partnership

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has paid a visit to Royal Air Force personnel serving in Romania as part of NATO’s Air Policing mission.

Since April, a detachment of four Typhoon fight jets from 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) have been relocated to South Eastern Romania. In the five months following, the EAW has flown alongside the Romanian Air Force to jointly police the skies over the Black Sea. For Williamson, who during his visit addressed representatives from both air forces, the mission demonstrates both that RAF’s capability and the importance of close collaboration.

“This deployment, Op BILOXI, is an excellent example of why the RAF, in its one hundredth year, is a class above air forces globally,” said Williamson. “It is my privilege to meet the service personnel that are serving with their Romanian allies, under a NATO banner.”

The Defence Secretary’s appearance at Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase rounded off his first official visit in-post to the country. Earlier in the day, Williamson met with his Romanian counterpart, Defence Minister Mihai Fifor, in Bucharest to discuss regional security across the Black Sea and defence collaboration between the two nations.

While at the airbase, Williamson also reiterated his earlier announcement of a Short Term Engagement Team from the British Army. This contingent will support the Romanian-led Multinational Brigade South-East as part of NATO’s Forward Presence in the Black Sea to enhance security and deter aggression in the region.

He added: “This mission demonstrates NATO’s flexible capabilities, underlining the commitment of Allies to each other, as well as resolve and readiness. That is why we as the UK are committed to NATO and Romania.”

Joining the Defence Secretary at the airbase, the Romanian Defence Minister also paid tribute to the partnership between the two countries, saying: “We believe that the presence of British partners in Romania represents not only a consistent contribution to the implementation of Assurance Measures, but also sends a strong message of allied solidarity.”

The EAW comprises four RAF Lossiemouth-based Typhoon aircraft from No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron supported by around 150 personnel drawn from stations across Great Britain. These aircraft form are part of the UK’s contribution to reassurance measures to ensure the operational capability of NATO’s eastern flank.

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US Army selects Lockheed Martin to develop autonomous convoy program

Lockheed Martin has been selected by the US Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) as the Integrated Systems Developer for its Expedient Leader Follower (ExLF) program.

In this role, Lockheed Martin will lead a three-year effort to develop, integrate and test unmanned prototype systems for supporting leader/follower convoy activities within an asymmetric threat environment. Soldiers will conduct operational technology demonstrations using the prototypes developed in the ExLF program to establish operating procedures and shape future programs of record.

Soldiers conduct resupply convoys within an asymmetric threat environment compounded by long sustainment missions, adverse weather/environment and night operations. These conditions adversely impact operator safety, degrade driver/operator situational awareness and reduce resupply efficiency.

Gaylia Campbell, Vice President of Precision Fires & Combat Maneuver Systems at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, said: “We are leveraging 15 years of experience in developing autonomous capabilities for our customers. Our goal as the Integrated Systems Developer is to help coordinate a number of systems and vendors in achieving mature, reliable autonomous convoys to support our warfighters in complex environments.

“The Expedient Leader Follower effort will equip a number of existing military ground vehicles with scalable robotic technology through the integration of modular kits, common interfaces and an open architecture to increase operator safety, improve situational awareness and increase resupply efficiency.”

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