The digitization of the modern battlefield is expected to accelerate amid the emerging threat of peer-to-peer conflict and extensive reductions in active service personnel. Armed forces worldwide are focused on equipping their soldiers with new capabilities and protective equipment by investing in the latest technology advancements for Dismounted Soldier Systems (DSS).
Below are the technology trends impacting the soldier modernization theme as identified by GlobalData.
Modularity remains one of the key design principles behind DSS, with the increased complexity of multi-domain operations and the rapid pace of technological advancements ensuring that only units capable of adapting their equipment to their needs or rapidly integrating emerging technologies, will succeed on an ever-expanding changing battlefield.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is considered the most important emerging technology trend within the defense sector as it will have multiple useful applications for defense, especially in the context of soldier modernization.
The digitization of the modern battlefield has led to the emergence of ‘information overload’, where individual soldiers’ decision-making is hampered by the amount of data they have to process, interpret and respond to. The integration of AI capabilities into a range of soldier systems will enable the rapid processing of tactical and strategic data, providing commanders and troops with a reliable flow of intelligence to improve response times and facilitate the coordination of forces in large-scale operations.
The advent of AI also has major implications for the viability of unmanned systems, allowing commanders to increase the lethality and survivability of soldiers. It also aids decision making through Manned Unmanned Teams (MUM-T) and streamlined Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Information/Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition and Reconnaissance (C4ISTAR) capabilities.
Wearable devices and augmented reality (AR)
As warfare touches more and more networks, new wearable devices become indispensable for infantry officers and soldiers to increase their situational awareness and combat effectiveness. Portable devices can be interfaced with radio systems and combat management systems through the use of head-mounted C2 displays; smart sights; smart wrist display; and the commander’s combat information displays. The devices are becoming more compact, lighter and increasingly integrated into harnesses or other equipment thanks to the latest developments in dual-purpose material technology.
Recent advances in AR technology offer new opportunities to improve a soldier’s situational awareness and reaction times, such as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), developed by Microsoft and currently being tested by the US military. However, unit size, weight, cost and energy consumption remain key challenges for wider adoption.
Unmanned platforms and systems have become an integral part of modern military operations due to their operational versatility and ability to minimize risks to human forces. Recent developments in portable small/nano platforms have created new opportunities to expand the operational capabilities of dismounted troops and have attracted significant investment from various military organizations.
Individual soldiers have become an integral part of the networked battlespace, with the advent of multi-domain operations (MDO). Platforms such as the Black Hornet Nano, a handheld nano-unmanned aerial system (UAS) that can be operated by a single soldier, allow ground forces to collect and share critical data with allied forces in the field. Unmanned systems are also increasingly being used as a force multiplier, with various armies exploring the possibilities MUM-T offers in future infantry formations. The potential benefits include improved firepower from armed platforms, additional carrying capacity for operations in remote environments, and enhanced surveillance capabilities.
internet of things
The Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Military Things (IoMT) is a chain of sensors, wearables and devices that use cloud networks and edge computing technologies to facilitate intelligence sharing between Allied forces and improve response times. The trend is at the forefront of the Joint All Domain C2 war combat concept currently being adapted by the US military, with the ultimate goal of each individual soldier acting as a “data hub” in a larger, networked force.
The IoMT emphasizes the term “connected soldier” through the use of capabilities to connect him or her to a variety of platforms such as ships, aircraft, tanks or unmanned vehicles. The IoT and IoMT will provide more data processing, transmission and storage capabilities.
Reduction of collateral damage
Governments and industries will design weapons to allow for the minimum collateral damage with the development of precision guided munitions. Ground combat troops are expected to use systems such as laser-guided weapons and guided small arms. For example, Raytheon has produced a new miniature laser-guided missile for Special Forces and infantry troops that can be fired at a range of two kilometers from existing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
The systems provide the ability to destroy or neutralize specific targets while inflicting minimal damage to surrounding areas such as homes and preventing accidental civilian casualties. Ground forces have a responsibility to monitor their actions as they are subject to international humanitarian law and are liable for the lawful use of force in armed conflict, which can result in collateral damage and a possible violation of laws such as the Geneva Convention . Such weapons can be guided by the sensors worn by troops, and these sensors are an indispensable part of future soldier kits.
This is an edited extract from the Soldiers Modernization – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.