Monthly Archives: February 2018

The world according to Shephard: Week 6

There’s been plenty to catch the eye this week not least from the Singapore Air Show 2018.

In typical roving reporter style, the Shephard team based in Singapore has been filing copy and producing video content by the bucket load. For those of you that might have missed the big stories, the flight-line video is a good starting point, especially if you’re a fast jets aficionado – as the USMC Lockheed Martin F-35B made its first appearance in Southeast Asia.

Watch the team’s overview of what went on here:


But, if, like this writer, you want to see the rotary offerings, Beth Maundrill, senior reporter at Shephard, takes you through the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s fleet with some of its whirlybirds on display, see more details here.

Land-based news this week saw Shephard with a scoop brought to you by staff reporter, Alice Budge.

US support for Iraq’s fleet of M1 Abrams tanks is continuing despite acknowledgement from the US government that the vehicles have been deployed and used by an Iranian-backed militia.

Recent reports in Iraqi media outlets suggested that the US had suspended its maintainence support for the tanks at the end of last year after some were found in the hands of a militia known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Iraqi soldiers conduct training with M1 Abrams tank

According to a US state department official, speaking to Shephard, the US is still committed to supporting the country’s security forces fleet.

Two highly in-depth opinion pieces were live this week. Firstly, the political positioning of the proposed construction of a Silk Road Economic Belt.

The Geobukseon states: ‘Commonly referred to as the…One Belt, One Road (OBOR), its broad agenda ranges from economic development to security enhancements and military defence expansion.

Moving from Asia to Europe, the second opinon piece this week, part of Shephard’s The Clarence series is on a recent UK government report that outlines the future of the country’s Amphibious Forces.

While it is sombre in tone with a focus on the cuts to the Royal Marines and the scrapping of HMS Albion and Bulwark – it does provide a reality check to the detrimental damage further cuts to personnel and loss of ships will do to national security.


The US-based team has been attending shows and conferences in abundance, Scott Gourley has been attending West 2018 in San Diego, California.

He has been covering a wealth of news: from the upcoming deployment of the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Milius highlighting the real world consequences of ongoing manning shortfalls to the development of an ‘autonomous data centre in a briefcase.’

From Washington, DC, Ashley Roque is at the Unmanned Systems conference and has drilled into details on the US military requiring industry’s help when it comes to more efficiently powering its unmanned systems.


Lastly, and because it’s Friday, this week’s free-to-view analysis piece comes from editor, Grant Turnbull and land reporter Alice Budge on the companies posturing their wares to the British Army for its 8×8 vehicle with the army’s decision expected very soon.

Shephard looks closely at what is being laid on the table to the woo service to pick them.


New year, new you


The start of a new year is a good chance for us to put the previous year behind us and start afresh with resolutions that aim to break old, often bad, habits and the inevitable poor life choices we sometimes make and, instead, capitalise on the good things we’ve done.

Reducing the amount of alcohol we drink, stopping smoking and losing weight are usually the top of the list for a revitalised self.

It’s no different for the C4I community as industry and the armed forces look to start new initiatives in 2018 or build on successes already achieved. As ever, a new year means a renewed purpose to achieve goals set out. It also means taking a step back and learning from the past, avoiding the mistakes that sometimes plague major projects. Indeed, many individuals and organisations will be hoping that 2018 will be the year that their endeavours bear fruit.

Nowhere is that more so than in major networking projects, which are often fraught with technical difficulties and so ambitious in scope that they implode due to cost overruns and delays. Indeed, 2017 was challenging for the US Army in terms of networking initiatives as it decided to effectively cancel its major networking modernisation programme known as the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical – or WIN-T.

WIN-T was supposed to be one of the service’s flagship projects, but last September the army’s Deputy Chief of Staff (G-6) Lt Gen Bruce Crawford announced its premature end, describing it as ‘not the network that we need to fight and win against a peer threat in a congested or contested environment’. It was criticised for not being simple or intuitive, and also for being heavily dependent on industry-provided field service representatives.

Instead, the US Army wants to leverage the ‘innovation explosion’ that is currently under way in the communications sector and transform its acquisition process to keep up with these seismic changes. As part of its transformation, the US Army will step up a new command aimed at modernisation, known as the Army Futures Command, with networking being one of six key priority areas that it will look at when it is stood up this summer.

This new command for 2018 could revitalise and reinvigorate army acquisition. Less-established industry players will also be hoping that this reinvigorated buying process could mean their innovative solutions win out over the same old multi-billion-dollar contractors.

Either way, the US Army has to find a solution to its networking challenges and 2018 will be the year in which we get more of an idea about the direction in which they’re heading. In some good news at least, it appears that the army’s attempts to fuse its air defence enterprise through a single network as part of its Integrated Air and Missile Defense programme is progressing well, despite early software hiccups. With its underlying IAMD Battle Command System, the army will be able to take advantage of open architecture standards and a significantly improved air defence picture.

And it’s not just the US embarking on major C4I programmes. Several countries, including Germany, France and the UK, are looking at moving forward with new communications and networking projects in 2018. The UK, for instance, will continue to leverage work already done on the next-generation Morpheus programme, in particular a £330 million contract placed with General Dynamics UK last April for the development of a new architectural approach known as Evolve to Open. The British Army is expected to contract other elements of Morpheus this year, including the Battlefield Management Application.

The German Army is also undertaking a significant communications and overall battle management modernisation, with two programmes known as Mobile Tactical Communications and Mobile Tactical Information Network. Several companies used 2017 to position themselves for a soon-to-be-released RfI. Both programmes could be highly lucrative for industry, with estimates suggesting the German Army will allocate around €4-6 billion ($4.8-7.2 billion) to the modernisation effort.

Front Cover.pngChallenges still remain, and as projects increase in scope and become more ambitious (and unwieldy), the chances of failure inevitably increase. If that’s not daunting enough, the increasingly contested and congested nature of communication networks, including the growing cyber threat, is also adding to the issues facing both industry and the armed forces. Nevertheless, as 2018 goes on, industry will be hoping its new year’s ambitions can achieve results, unlike trying to cut down on those evening tipples.

The Jan-Feb 23018 edition of Digital Battlespace magazine is now available FREE on Google Play and the Apple Store.

The World According to Shephard: Week 5

Costing Britain’s defence

The UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson recently confirmed the MoD’s intention to split off the defence part of the National Security review into a separate review. The Clarence offers some suggestions on where the cuts might fall while protecting the capabilities necessary to meet the goals of the 2015 National Security Review.

Meanwhile the MoD came under increasing pressure this week after it was forced to defend itself in light of suggestions by the National Audit Office (NAO) that it did not include the costings of the Type 31e light frigate project in its equipment plan. The NAO’s report found that there could be an affordability gap potential of over £20 billion.


Up-gunning Europe

Final testing of the German Armed Force’s anti-tank missile system on its fleet of Puma IFVs is expected to be completed by Q3 2018, with initial fielding scheduled for 2020. The MELLS missile system is armed with Spike LR missiles and will provide the German forces with significant additional operational scope and capabilities.

In Bulgaria the MoD has indicated it will acquire new wheeled IFVs as part of its modernisation agenda, in addition to upgrading existing soviet-era armour. The tender is expected to be launched in mid-2018 for 150 8×8 vehicles to equip three battalions. Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev look into some of the contenders for the programme.

Europe tanks

The British Army’s training units are preparing for the imminent delivery of the first Ajax variant after the completion of government acceptance testing (GAT). The Ares specialist troop carrier configuration will be received by the Armour Centre at Bovington, while GAT for Ajax is expected to commence in early 2018 following successful manned live firing trials.


Patrolling the seas from above and below

Russia’s Beriev Be-12 fleet of maritime patrol aircraft is set for an upgrade of its vintage 1970s mission suite according to the Russian Naval Aviation Chief. The aircraft will receive three new components, a hydroacoustic sub-system, new radar and new magnetic anomaly detector to keep the aircraft in service until the mid-2020s.

Going beneath the waves in Taiwan, where the navy performed a successful demonstration of its minehunting capabilities. Despite the success of the demonstration, the main message was that the Republic of China Navy’s minehunting capabilities have reached the end of their lifecycle and must be replaced soon. The service is at risk of losing its ability to counter China’s sea mine blockade threat.

Minehunting edit

Special Forces march into future threats

NATO special operations forces are actively seeking next-generation technologies to support a future operating environment dominated by missions in confined, congested and contested megacities. This includes exploiting technology in order to support subterranean operations in dense urban environments with large populations.

Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service is also considering future training and material requirements of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) following the eradication of Isis from the country. ISOF has recently performed more conventional light infantry operations to retake huge swathes of land from Isis including the City of Mosul and now needs to re-focus on elite counter-terrorism skills required to ensure the stability of Iraq.

Iraq SOF