UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne and US Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall announced at Farnborough 14 July that the two nations have committed to a joint programme to accelerate the impact of robotic and autonomous systems on resupplying their armed forces.
Science and technology teams on both sides of the Atlantic have already spent six months developing innovative proposals to enhance capabilities in ‘the last mile’ of the defence resupply process. The final stage in transporting supplies to operational units, frequently in hazardous and challenging environments, can often be lengthy and tremendously dangerous for the personnel involved. The new programme – which will last for up to four years – is aimed at examining and proofing concepts that can reduce risk to personnel and accelerate, strengthen and secure the delivery of essential supplies.
A series of trials, involving unmanned air and ground systems, will begin in October 2017. The first iteration of the programme is likely to be demonstration of an autonomous truck convoy at the US Army’s Warfighting Assessment trials, the officials revealed. A final trial, in which a selected range of technologies will be brought together in an integrated, seamless systems, is scheduled for October 2019, they added.
Philip Dunne said: “Defence Science and Technology collaboration has been a core part of the special relationship with the US for over 75 years. Robotics and autonomous systems offer opportunities to operate in fundamentally different ways. This collaboration on assured resupply will put our nations at the forefront of future developments – allowing us to transform our approach to military logistics.”
Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall added: “This joint effort deepens bilateral defense Science and Technology (S&T) cooperation. The Third Offset is about insuring the competitive advantage of US forces and our allies and partners over the coming decades. Our collaboration will help grow our advantage in autonomous systems and human-machine collaboration and will help drive interoperability between US and UK systems into the future.”
Last year US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon challenged their departments to drive a collaborative approach on innovation between the US and UK. UK participation will be led by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in partnership with the Army. In the US, work will be led by the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). The US is also providing personnel and equipment in support of the demonstrations and experiments.